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January 10, 2003

Purdue dining courts to sport modern look, attractive entrees

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Bids will be opened Thursday, Jan. 23, for construction on a new $18 million dining court at Purdue University.

The Stadium Avenue Dining Court is part of a $48 million project to enhance dining services for Purdue Student Residences. The ultimate goal is for students to have appealing food options, such as custom-made sandwiches, salads and selections from the Mongolian barbecue grill, while dining in one of five new or renovated courts with a modern restaurant-like atmosphere.

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Construction of the dining court, which will be located between Cary Quadrangle, Owen Hall, Stadium Avenue and Tower Drive, will be completed in fall 2004. It will accommodate 800 diners on two levels, with outdoor seating available. The main level will contain eight food stations, including a stone-hearth oven that will produce freshly made pizza.

Other options include fare from a deli station, an international station, a grill station, a breakfast bar, a salad bar, a dessert bar and the Heartland Classics station, which features "meat-and-potatoes" entrees. An "On the Go" market will offer prepackaged sandwiches, salads, soups, beverages and pastries for carry-out.

Sarah Johnson, director of dining services, says Purdue is making a concerted effort to please students' palates. Ideas came from student committees, surveys and "old-fashioned observation."

"For instance, we want to provide a varied selection of international foods, because we have more international students than any other public university," Johnson says. "They're telling us they want more authentic international foods, not just Americanized versions."

Johnson says a chef will be present in each dining court, and the majority of the food preparation will be in plain view.

"What students have told and shown us is that they like to see it prepared for them," Johnson says. "It's not just bulk food coming out of the kitchen."

Johnson says students also have indicated they want a less cafeteria-like atmosphere.

"The dining courts will be very upscale," Johnson says. "They will look like a restaurant like a pizza kitchen or Italian eatery."

Johnson says the dining court also will feature "two swipe" meals, in which students can upgrade to a more gourmet-like entree, such as steak, by paying for two regular meals at once. A new block meal program also is available for friends, family members and off-campus students. Program participants pay $150 for 25 anytime meals at any dining court. Occasional diners still can pay in cash.

The conversion of other residence halls' cafeterias to dining courts remains on schedule. Earhart Hall will open its newly renovated dining court, complete with black granite countertops, after spring break in March. Hillenbrand's dining court is scheduled to open in the fall. Windsor's dining court will follow in the spring of 2005, with the Tarkington renovation project scheduled for completion in spring  2006.

Despite the initial cost, the consolidation of the current cafeterias is expected to realize a savings of $4.4 million annually by 2006-07. All staff members will have the opportunity to remain employed, despite an overall decrease in the number of jobs.

Johnson says Purdue University Residences' goal is to streamline costs while increasing student satisfaction with appealing food options and flexible meal plans.

"I don't know of any other school that is doing what we are to the extent we are doing it," Johnson says. "I think these upgrades allow us to provide outstanding service and guide us toward becoming a prestigious hospitality center."

CONTACT: Sarah Johnson, (765) 494-1000, scj@purdue.edu.

IMAGE CAPTION:

An architectural rendering shows the east view of the Stadium Avenue Dining Court. The court will be open to students in the fall of 2004. (Image courtesy of Purdue University Residences and Scholer Corp.)

A publication-quality image is available at ftp://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/johnson.diningcourt.jpeg.

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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