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From “Free Bird” to Gluten Free– After Four Decades, Dining Center to be Reimagined

dc 1970
The UMD Dining Center in the early 1970s
dc 2008
The UMD Dining Center in 2008

The Dining Center (DC) will close on Friday, March 4 for a four-month remodeling project.

The 1974 building will undergo a $5.2-million modernization. “It was just getting too hard to function in the way that we need to function,” said Claudia Engelmeier, director of Dining Services.

When it was built four decades ago, UMD served 900 students. Today there are 2,300 meal contracts.

The growing pains associated with those numbers include constantly blowing fuses because need exceeds the DC’s electrical capacity.

Beyond the nuts and bolts, the upgrade gives UMD the green light to create a space that better accommodates today’s students. The restrooms will be updated and a gender inclusive restroom will be added. There will be a gluten free/allergen area, a dietician will be officed inside the DC, and the partnership with UMD’s farm will become a focal point.

Cooler and freezer storage will be on the same floor in the new facility, saving the staff several elevator trips each day.

Because it’s on stilts, the remodel is contained to the original footprint. Architectural Resources Inc. is creating the illusion of more space by opening it up, surfacing cement pillars with reclaimed wood, and offering varied seating.

There is only one Dining Center on campus, so the Kirby Ballroom is being retrofitted to serve students until construction is complete.

The remodel is being funded by Dining Services.

Plans are to reopen the dining space for the August 2016 Bulldog Welcome Week.

“End of an Era” Celebration

The iconic space will be sent off with an “End of an Era” celebration on Wednesday, March 2 from 4:30 – 7 p.m. Live music will serenade an estimated 1,400 students as they bid farewell to the place that’s fed generations of Bulldogs.

The Dining Center will have a new name when it reopens, to be determined by a contest kicked off at the celebration.


Before the Dining Center was built, a cafeteria in the Kirby Student Center served students.

Dormitories were added to campus in the late1960s and with them there was a need for a dining facility.

A committee began addressing UMD’s dining squeeze in 1966. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in 1971 and the Dining Center was used for students beginning in 1974.



March 2016.
UMD News Articles | News Releases
Cheryl Reitan,

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