The Kansas Union is full of KU history, but one piece was missing from public view for months. The scaled campus model, featuring a tiny Strong Hall, small Allen Fieldhouse, and minuscule Potter Lake, was undergoing its first major renovation since 2002.
Students Sarah Irby and Will Shadwick, both School of Architecture graduate students, worked on the project. “I committed to it before I saw the model,” Shadwick said. “Once I saw how big it really is, I wasn’t sure what I’d gotten myself into.”
Despite the small size of the campus buildings, the construction process was far from simple. Irby, a’18, and Shadwick, a’8, used blueprints from building constructions to ensure they correctly matched the model’s 1/100 scale.
The technology used to construct the campus replica has certainly changed since the model was last updated. While wood is still used for some features, advancements in 3D printing allowed for plastic modeling of buildings to the 1/100th of an inch.
No amount of technology can replace the time commitment needed to paint windows, replace trees, adjust colors, and all the other details that come with the first renovation in 16 years. “Early on we had to decide what we were going to change, and what we would leave alone,” Shadwick said.
For example, Memorial Stadium still has a track surrounding the field. “With major stadium renovations coming soon, we thought we’d leave that to students later on,” said Shadwick with a smile.
“We’ve been meaning to do this for a long time,” said David Mucci, director of the KU Memorial Union. “These students did a great job.”
Past renovations to the model, a gift from the class of 1962, took pace in 1969, 1971, 1976, 1985, 1987, 1995, and 2002. “Usually it’s a renovation every five years, but with campus changing so rapidly we’d be repeating too often,” Mucci said.
The model is available to view on the third floor of the Kansas Union, near the staircase.
Read more about the KU Memorial Union’s changes in recent years, including its newest student space, Union Square.
In a special decommissioning ceremony on March 8, KU students, alumni and staff said goodbye to the Burge Union, which is slated for demolition in April to make room for KU’s Central District project. Several former Burge Union employees came to pay their respects to the building—and to the man often referred to as the “most gracious host on campus.”
Frank Burge was union director from 1952-83. Both of his successors were on hand, including Jim Long, who directed the unions from 1983-99, and current director of unions, David Mucci, who served as master of ceremonies. Student Body President Jessie Pringle and Lauren Arney, Memorial Corporation Board president, shared plans for the new union while paying tribute to the history of the Burge Union and its namesake.
Burge was beloved by students and could often be seen picking up bits of trash or washing off the sidewalks early mornings in front of the union. He famously loved sharing mini cinnamon rolls from Muncher’s Bakery, so plenty were on hand for the ceremony. In recognition of his dedication to students and service to the University of the Kansas, Burge was awarded the Fred Ellsworth Medallion, the Association’s highest honor, in 1982.
During his time at KU, campus grew to the south and west, and plans for a “satellite union” were discussed as early as 1968. However, it wasn’t until 1976 that funding was finally secured for the $2.8 million facility that would be constructed of tan brick and reinforced concrete. It officially opened in time for fall classes in August of 1979. In January of 1983, just days before Burge’s retirement, the 48,450-square-foot satellite union would be renamed the Frank R. Burge Union.
Unlike the Kansas Union, which has undergone several renovations and expansions through the years, the Burge Union remained largely unchanged. Utilitarian by design, it was home to the Crimson Cafe, KU Bookstore, University Career Center and Legal Services for Students. In recent years, a lounge for veterans was added amid meeting rooms and other amenities.
Campus, meanwhile, has continued to move south and west with recent renovations and construction on Daisy Hill, new buildings for the KU School of Engineering and the new DeBruce Center, scheduled to open mid-April which will be managed by KU Memorial Unions and will include dining options.
The Burge Union’s demise will make way for the Central District project, which will include, among other things, a new student union. Plans include a coffee shop, reflection room, lounge and space for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center and the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity.
And although the new union has yet to be given a name, a plaque will pay tribute to “one of the most beloved public servants in KU history.”
KU Memorial Unions and Student Union Activities opened the doors Sept. 3 for the Jay, a new, 4,200-square foot event space in the former Jaybowl site.
Jessie Pringle, student body president; Lauren Arney, KU Memorial Unions Corporation board president; and Kassandra Valles, Student Union Activities president, performed the ribbon-cutting as David Mucci, KU Memorial Unions director, welcomed students, faculty and staff into the renovated space.
“I think you’re going to like what you see,” Mucci said, “and there will be more to come.”
Among the ceremony participants were U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, c’99, l’02, past president of the KU Memorial Unions board, and Dan Sabatini, a’86, whose architecture firm, Sabatini Architects, designed the renovation.
“We maintained some of the Jaybowl’s original character,” Sabatini says. “The ceilings still have the black lights, and those special projectors for cosmic bowling are still here.”
Fans of the old Jaybowl, which closed its doors May 9, will also find memorabilia and photographs of the 62-year-old campus fixture displayed in cases outside the entrance of the new Jay.