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Thursday, April 18, 2024
Union South to be missed by many

: Union South, built in 1971, will be demolished next semester to make room for the new south campus union. It will host a bar and grill, a cafe, a terrace and multiple study corridors.

Union South to be missed by many

Built as a peace memorial in 1971, Union South has served students on the south side of UW-Madison campus for 37 years. Although it rarely drew as large a crowd as Memorial Union, Union South has served niche groups and provided a haven for students to study, hear contemporary music and, of course, have a hand at bowling.  


But as demolition nears, the time has come for many to say good bye. 


It's a comfortable, tight-knit place,"" said Jessie Hornyak, a UW-Madison senior who has worked at Union South for the past four semesters. ""People come in on a regular basis '¦ I could tell you what the gray-haired man will eat for lunch every day."" 


According to Shayna Hetzel, director of membership and building project communications, Union South was constructed as a temporary solution to satisfy the immediate needs of the campus with the theme ""fewer walls, more bridges."" The ""peace"" idea influenced the architecture to face inward from any kind of conflict that might be going on outside.  


When the building opened in 1971, the games room opened first. Alan Silow, a 1972 UW-Madison graduate actively involved in the opening of Union South, shared a humorous memory about his experience with the games room on the ""Union Memories Wikispace"" page where alumni can post memories about Union South.  


""I was asked to help 'open' the bowling alley with throwing the first ball,"" he wrote. ""When I did so it went into the bowling lane gutter and instead of rolling down, it broke through the gutter amidst much laughter."" 


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Throughout history, Union South has tallied some ""firsts"" to its name. It housed the nation's first college campus blood donation center, campus volunteer center and all-ages dance club ""Diversions,"" which is now called Club 770. SOAR, International Coffee Hour, football Saturdays' Badger Bash and dance groups like UW-Madison Ballroom Association have made their home in Union South as well.  


Tim Gleckler, director of retail services, has spent 23 years with Union South. Gleckler began in 1985 as manager of the games room and has acquired many fond memories there, including meeting his wife. 


""It will always be a special place,"" he said. ""To a certain extent I think I'm in denial that it's really going to go down."" 


Although she served a much shorter tenure, UW-Madison freshman Tara Centeno spent her first semester as a UW-Madison student employed at Union South.  


""I really enjoyed working there because it was a fun and friendly environment. Most of the people came in with a smile and ready to chat,"" she said. 


When the Memorial Union was built in 1928 and Union South in 1971, the student population was 8,000 and 32,000, respectively. The student body has now grown to over 40,000 and Union South is the first to undergo a makeover.  


Hetzel said the plans for the new south campus union aim to meet the campus' growing needs and reflect the future in green technology. 


""In the most fundamental sense, the new building will be a true student union,"" said Dan Cornelius, vice president for project management. ""Right now, people don't really view Union South as a union '¦ It's much more of a service center."" 


Despite WUD's best efforts to keep students interests at the forefront of the construction, some students have raised voices at the increase in segregated fees and the lack of student input during the new union's voting period. 


Hetzel pointed out that the $96 increase per student per semester at UW-Madison is still below the UW System average of $120 for similar building projects.  

However, many students cannot wait for the new union to open so they can take advantage of its facilities and study spaces. 


""[Union South] holds a sweet spot in my heart, but I am also really excited to see the new union,"" Centeno said. ""From the designs I have seen it looks beautiful and I can't wait to see it '¦ I just wish wait we didn't have to wait three years.

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