New student center's amenities coming online during 'soft opening' phase

Contact: Kaitlynn Boot
Ouside front of student center

Amenities within the Student Center and Dining Facility begin opening Monday, July 31.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The soft opening phase for Western Michigan University’s new Student Center and Dining Facility started Monday, July 31.

Some offices and offerings will be open that day—including Buster’s Bookstore, the Office of Student Engagement, the Office for the Vice President of Student Affairs, FedEx, PNC Bank and Starbucks—while the facility's full complement of amenities, including its eateries, will come online over time through the grand opening in late August.

“The Student Center team is very excited about our July 31 soft opening,” says Paul Terzino, director of the student center. “We’ll have furniture in place, retail revving up and hammocks on the ready. Having a soft opening before the semester begins allows us to gauge how the building is working.  It’s like 'pre-season,' and we’ll tweak and adjust” operations as needed.

The eating are for Fireside in the student center

Fireside is one of the venues in the state-of-the-art dining facility in the student center.

Included in the building’s numerous student-focused resources and gathering spaces are two fast-casual restaurants on the first floor and a state-of-the-art dining facility on the third floor.

The guiding force behind the culinary direction of many of the student center's eateries is chef Andrew Francisco, associate director of culinary operations. He says that soft openings are especially important for food service locations, allowing staff to develop processes and protocols to ensure smooth service for guests.

“The soft openings are a great opportunity for us to practice cooking in new spaces with new equipment, and in many cases, new menu items,” he says. “This gives us a chance to better master our craft before the students come back for Fall Welcome. Soft openings typically range from (attracting) 50 to 300-plus persons, which is a nice practice round before serving up to 5,000 meals in one day, which is quite a feat!”

Student center hours

Monday, July 31

  • Student center building will be open on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • WMU departments such as the Office of Student Engagement, Dining Services, the Office for the Vice President of Student Affairs will have business hours from  8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Starbucks will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Re-Fresh Market, a spot for refreshing, on-the-go options such as freshly packed sandwiches and salads, fruit, yogurt and other convenience-style items, will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
  • Buster’s Bookstore and PNC Bank will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • FedEx will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 1

  • The Admissions Welcome Center opens from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Monday, Aug. 7

  • Fast-fired pizzas from Mi Pi will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The restaurant will be closed on Thursday, Aug. 10, for staff training.  

Monday, Aug. 14

  • Fuego Verde, which features robust flavors and zesty ingredients for build-your-own entrees like tacos, burritos and quesadillas, will operate from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. 
Sitting area in studewnt center.

Sitting areas provide the ideal spots for gathering and socializing at the student center.

On Monday, Aug. 21, nearly all locations in the student center will begin their regular fall hours in preparation for the building’s grand opening ahead of the academic year resuming. Student Center Dining, a multi-venue dining center location located on the third floor, will open for the campus community and the public on Monday, Aug. 28, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

The center's grand opening celebration will be on Tuesday, Aug. 29.

For Francisco, the new student center's soft opening elicits a mixture of feelings, including excitement, optimism, nervousness and pride.

“Personally, I feel excited and optimistic about having two very nice dining centers on campus which are nicely complimented by retail locations and campus cafes to make good food convenient to all anywhere on campus,” he says. “I also feel very proud. The staff has been working very hard through the pandemic as essential workers and have never stopped giving it their all for years. They are the key to the successful launch of our new dining endeavors this semester.”  

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.