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    Food, Food Everywhere, And Not A Place to Sit

    Logistical problems with the Student Activity Center dining facility are rooted in the building’s original design, officials say.

    Long lines, crowding, and insufficient seating plague the popular dining center and draw ire from patrons.’ Administrators are enacting long-term plans in an attempt to make up for the building’s shortcomings.’

    Before the SAC opened in 1997, the Student Union served as the main dining facility.’ However, things quickly changed.’ The original drafts of the SAC were drawn up in the late 1980s.’ When the center finally opened in its first phase, the dynamic of the campus had already changed ‘- the locations of newer dorms emphasized the SAC as the logical center of campus life. ‘I think location is key.’ It’s more central than the Union or even the Wang center,’ said Richard Wolcott, Director of Facilities Operations.’

    The facility was somewhat unprepared from the start.’ It was originally intended to function in a quick cook-to-order format, auxiliary to the Union.’ Over the years, the growth of the student population has exacerbated the inherent logistical problems.’

    Today, midday lines snake around the inside of the facility.’ Once patrons get inside, individual lines form at each station and at the registers. Seating is especially scarce ‘- often, patrons have to wait with their food for a seat.’ The worst times are directly before and after every class.’

    The SAC serves an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people every day. The cashiers register about 6,000 transactions.’

    The dining area has over 320 seats, with roughly 232 in the main dining hall and 88 on the second floor.’

    Alex Poznanski, a freshman, said he encounters the long lines at around 1:00 PM every day when he gets lunch. He said the SAC is the most convenient place because it is close to all of his classes.

    For over a year, a guard has managed the line outside the food service area. Originally, a guard was placed there as a theft deterrent, said Wolcott, but the position quickly evolved into a mechanism of line management. Students concede that the guard helps the flow of traffic.

    Administrators have employed other methods of crowd control over the years. Until the policy was discontinued last year, there were specific hours when only commuters were permitted into the SAC to ease congestion.’

    On Feb. 21, patron complaints about lines prompted Toasty Subs to streamline its menu. Toasty Subs will now only offer one sandwich per day, allowing staff to make sandwiches in advance. The FSA is already receiving complaints from patrons dissatisfied with the new menu, said Angela Agnello, Director of Marketing and Communications for the FSA.

    The main strategy of administrators is to ease pressure from the SAC by redirecting patrons to other dining facilities. In the past, patrons were offered coupons and discounts for dining elsewhere on campus. The FSA invests in advertising to educate students about smaller dining facilities.’

    This summer, renovations will begin on the Union in an effort to enhance dining there and siphon students away from the SAC. The Bleacher Club will enjoy more seating, authentic Asian and Caribbean cuisine, a Southwestern-style grill, and new Halal entrees. The renovations will be done by the time school resumes in Sept., said Agnello. Later in the fall semester, the current End of the Bridge Caf’eacute; will become a Starbucks and a new restaurant. The FSA is also putting $2 million into renovating the Tabler Caf’eacute; and the Union Deli.’

    ‘The Stony Brook Union is going to be the place to eat because we’re going to have all these new concepts under one roof,’ said Agnello. ‘This may be the center of campus again.”

    In some ways, the Union makes more sense as central dining facility than the SAC. Because of the SAC’s original intent as a cook-to-order facility, its kitchen and storage areas are much smaller than the Union’s. The Union kitchen is 2,070 square feet, while the SAC kitchen is only 881 square feet, with a good portion of that space utilized as storage.

    However, Wolcott emphasized the fact that food storage is short throughout campus. ‘I get requests for storage daily,’ he said. ‘We ran out of storage space years ago.’

    The FSA is planning on renovating the dining facility at Roth Quad during the 2007-2008 school year, said Agnello. After that, the SAC may be renovated.’

    Students have voiced their concerns regarding the way space is utilized within the SAC. Rob Romano, President Pro-Tempore of the Undergraduate Student Government, believes that the Traditions Lounge in the SAC should be made into additional seating for the dining facility.

    A worker at the SAC, Jordanna Kendrot, a freshman employee at the SAC dining facility, disagrees with Romano’s suggestion. She believes it to be a nice place to study and envisions cleaning the carpeted floor to be difficult.

    Wolcott echoed Kendrot’s sentiments. ‘We don’t allow food in the lounge areas. We feel it’s a quiet place for studying,’ said Wolcott. Plus, Wolcott added, mixing food and carpeting would make for much higher maintenance costs.

    In accordance with the FSA’s policy of easing SAC congestion, students will be able to add money to their meal plans for use in off-campus locations. The Campus Cash pilot program, which the FSA is currently signing off-campus vendors on to, is an effort to reduce traffic in the SAC by providing alternatives. ‘Hopefully students take advantage of this option,’ said Romano, adding that if this pilot program is a success, it could lead to more robust off-campus options.

    Regardless of what the administration does, students are ready for change. ‘Any improvements that can be made will be welcomed by the USG and by the students at large. I just hope the changes will happen quickly enough,’ said Romano.

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