University Enterprises Inc. plans additional eateries, renovations

State Hornet Staff

University Enterprises Inc. Board of Directors voted March 20 to approve funding of up to $250,000 for Riverfront Center exterior improvements. As a non-profit auxiliary organization of Sac State, UEI does not use any student fees or tuition to pay for projects.

UEI Executive Director Jim Reinhart said the outside look of the center has not kept pace with recent major interior renovations, including updated seating and lighting implemented in summer 2012, and the continuing efforts to update the inside with new restaurants is an added incentive for renovating the outdated exterior.

“It’s not very pretty,” Reinhart said. “It’s very old and rather ugly.”

The renovation plans will make the center more energy efficient and includes updated signs along with the painting of new awnings, windows and doors.

Reinhart said UEI is also looking to alter the heavy entrance doors so the structure is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Aside from the exterior updates, UEI plans to build a Baja Fresh Express in the space adjacent to Panda Express and a Juice It Up located in the roundhouse that currently holds Java City.

Reinhart said a decision to get rid of the Roundhouse Java City was made once UEI realized having a Starbucks and Java City so close in proximity made no financial sense. Although it was planned to open this semester, the Starbucks store is still being constructed.

Juice it Up funding will be done in two phases. Reinhart said the initial approved funding of $70,000 is for designing and constructing feasibility studies, but the money used for the second phase has yet to be determined.

“Once we have the project fully designed and know exactly what it is going to cost, we will go back to the board for additional funding,” Reinhart said.

Providing high-caliber and high-quality food services is the desired goal of the renovations and are based off periodic student surveys for both commuters and those living on campus.

UEI Director of Marketing Services Angela Rader said the choice of Starbucks was determined by a survey of about 400 to 500 students asking for their preferred coffee service.

“Ninety-five percent voted for Starbucks out of four or five different options,” Rader said.

In the last two years, dining services surveys have also been distributed through various student organizations. Approximately 800 students responded with not just their preferred food spots, but in terms of the overall eating experience.

Despite Starbucks becoming a part of the university due to student input, Reinhart said other popular brand eateries requested cannot be obtained due to low amounts of customers on weekends and over summer, which is not feasible for specific business models.

“We tried to get Chipotle,” Reinhart said. “People would [have also] loved to have an In-N-Out on campus, but it is not an option for us.”

Natasha Quevedo, a sophomore biology major, feels having big brand name coffee company is not necessary and the Riverfront Center looks fine the way it is.

But she said she liked seeing the campus provide more food options and if exterior renovations are happening, then one focus should be seating designed to withstand bad weather.

“A lot of people like to sit outside, which is not easy in the winter,” Quevedo said. “If they made the outside seating a bit more covered when it was raining, there would still be a place for students to go. That would be a nice renovation.”

Kadina Koonce, a sophomore geography major, is unsure of what can be done because the center is made up of mostly windows, but she approves the changes.

“It is kind of boring compared to the inside,” Koonce said.

At the Board of Directors meeting, nobody voiced opposition to the project. President Alexander Gonzalez suggested some of the money should go toward window treatment, even as simple as replacing the blinds. In discussing some of the renovations,

UEI Board of Directors Treasurer Crystal Ekanayake voiced concerns before the official vote was taken based on multiple instances of stalled progress with Starbucks construction.

“This building has given us a lot of surprises,” Ekanayake said. “Are we confident we are not going to find more problems?” Reinhart said he does not foresee any more major issues.