As students make their way around the Kansas Union this semester, those who stop by The Market for lunch are in for a fresh surprise.
“Union Square,” the third-floor seating area outside The Market, underwent a major renovation over winter break. It offers students a new space to study, relax, or meet while grabbing a bite to eat.
“We had 6,000 square feet of space, with a beautiful campus view, that was only utilized over the lunch hour,” said Lisa Kring, director of building & event services. “We entered design with the goal of providing a student space that offered an experience, not just a place to inhale a quick lunch.”
New tables and chairs in a variety of shapes and sizes fill the area, including lounge seating, rocking chairs and eight study pods in a quiet corner.
Televisions line the walls of the space, with some available for students to connect their own devices. A 24-by 6-feet video wall of TV panels shows the latest in news, sports and entertainment.
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The force awakened on Mount Oread for Star Wars Day. The unofficial holiday for fans of the franchise is May 4 (as in May the fourth be with you), and this year did not disappoint.
Thanks to a promotion by KU Dining Services, the 7th annual Star Wars Day celebration at KU encouraged Jayhawks and Jedi alike to dine at Brella’s in the Kansas Union to raise funds for Make-a-Wish, while transforming campus into the Cantina from Tatooine. Cosplay characters from the 501st Legion, Mandalorian Mercs and the Dark Empire posed for pics and entertained crowds on Jayhawk boulevard, while other KU offices got into the act on social media. According to one participant who referred to himself only as “the Dark Lord,” Wednesday’s event was, “impressive …most impressive.”
Here’s a roundup of posts celebrating all things Star Wars at KU. May the force be with you, Jayhawks.
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.
Since 1953, the Jaybowl has been a constant on campus, surviving countless renovations to Kansas Union, most recently in 2000, when plans for a cyber-cafe were changed after student protests, and the Jaybowl was, ahem, spared.
This time around, neither student sentiment nor nostalgia could make up for average annual losses of $17,000 per year, as reported in the Lawrence Journal-World. The decline in usage and the opportunity to add new programming space during the next renovation (slated to begin this summer) made the decision a game changer.
Alumni will remember the Jaybowl as a safe haven for weary students looking to blow off steam in the fifties and sixties by bowling a few lanes or playing billiards. In the seventies and eighties, pinball wizards took advantage of arcade games while the sounds of Pac-Man and Space Invaders joined the jukebox playing Led Zeppelin and the Steve Miller Band. Some Jaybowl visitors even had a chance to imbibe while beer was served briefly on campus until 1998. Lately, however, Cosmic bowling under black lights, birthday parties and other promotional efforts proved not enough to save it.
The Jaybowl leaves behind a legacy, serving as the home of the KU bowling team and the 1963 and 2004 intercollegiate bowling national champions. The notoriety, and bowling classes, helped attract students to the sport, including KU basketball and future NBA star Julian Wright, who famously picked up bowling as a hobby to relax, a practice he continues to this day.
The Kansas Union announced plans for a farewell celebration to be held this week on May 9, with games and activities before a final ceremonial last strike at 12:55 a.m. on May 10. Memorabilia, including bowling pins and shoes, will be for sale at the Jaybowl counter starting today until they’re gone. Pick up a pair–and maybe one last spare–while they last.
The Jaybowl, the Kansas Memorial Union bowling alley that has been a campus fixture since 1953, will close May 9 and its first-floor space will be converted to a venue for live entertainment.
Kansas Memorial Unions announced the move in an April 13 media release, citing “growing losses, escalating down time and new space needs” as the reason for the decision.
“We’ve had decreased usage, because the world has changed,” said Claudia Larkin, g’00, director of marketing for KU Memorial Unions. “Ten years ago, usage was around 35,000 annually; now it’s at approximately 21,000. We haven’t been able to break even when we average our expenses over the last five years.” The Jaybowl has lost an average of $17,000 per year over that period, Larkin said.
KU Memorial Unions, a non-profit affiliate of KU, and its Memorial Unions Corporation Board, composed of KU student leaders, faculty members, alumni and Union staff members, in fall 2013 began looking into a project that would extensively redesign large portions of the Kansas Union. A committee composed of student members of the Corporation Board conducted focus groups involving 89 students and 59 faculty and staff members to gauge potential changes. Among renovations discussed to several floors of the Union is a proposal to convert the Jaybowl space to a pub and grill, according to Larkin. Those plans—which could include a proposal to serve alcohol—“will of course have to go through University channels for approvals,” she said.
KU Memorial Unions is currently targeting fiscal 2018 as the start date of that larger renovation, but declining usage and financial losses contributed to the decision to close the Jaybowl now rather than later.
“That, with the student input on the kinds of things they’d like to see out of the Union, is creating the change,” Larkin said.
Kyle Rosberg, president of the KU bowling team, challenged the notion that student interest in bowling has declined.
“Go up to Royal Crest Lanes on Sunday night,” Rosberg said. “They have a Sunday fun day and it’s packed with college students.”
A senior who has competed for the KU bowling team for four years, he said the Jaybowl’s small size, antiquated equipment and a limited snack bar that doesn’t serve alcohol put it at a competitive disadvantage with larger alleys like Royal Crest.
“There you can eat, drink, bowl and have a good time,” Rosberg said. “Here you’ve got limited options on what you can do.”
A 2004 renovation that upgraded the Jaybowl did little to address issues with aging equipment. Both Larkin and Rosberg noted that nearly half the alley’s 12 lanes might be out of order at one time. That ongoing state of disrepair, Rosberg said, not student disinterest, is the reason for declining usage.
“If you go bowl and halfway through your game you have to move to a different lane because yours turned off, less and less people will go back,” he said. “But to fix it up would not be cheap, because the lanes are pretty bad from a competitive bowler’s standpoint. They’d need to do a lot of work on lanes and machines.”
Indeed, the Jaybowl’s pinsetter equipment was purchased used in the early 1960s, Larkin noted. “It’s difficult to maintain those lanes because the pieces and parts to that very nostalgic bowling alley aren’t available,” she said.
Current members and alumni of the KU bowling team, which won a national championship in 2004, are disappointed they weren’t consulted in the decision to close the Jaybowl, Rosberg says. “We have alumni who pretty much spent their four years of college between class, Jaybowl and home. They’re really saddened that it’s gone.” But the team’s future, he notes, is secure. They may have lost their on-campus home, but they plan to field a full team and play a full tournament schedule next year.
“Our main concern right now is there’s a lot of team trophies there, stuff like that,” Rosberg said. “We just want to make sure that all gets taken care of, not lost or thrown away somehow.”
The summer renovation plans call for mounting display cases outside the Jaybowl entrance for a commemorative tribute. An interior space now used as a party room will be renamed the Spare Room and will be decorated with bowling mementoes, Larkin said, including bowling team trophies and other Jaybowl memorabilia.
The Jaybowl’s final frame May 9 will feature a private gathering of KU bowling team players and alumni from 1 to 4 p.m.; a farewell fling from 8 to 10 p.m. with free bowling and free hotdogs, popcorn and soda; and cosmic bowling starting at 10 p.m. The Jaybowl’s 62-year run will end with a ceremonial “last strike” sendoff at 12:55 a.m. Pins will be set on all lanes, according to the KU Memorial Unions release, “and brushed into eternity by a sequential sweep of the pins starting on lane 1 and ending on lane 12.”
Anyone wanting a piece of the campus alley can buy bowling shoes, shirts and pins at the Jaybowl counter from May 4 to 9, or until supplies run out.
The University of Kansas on March 10 recognized a group of 15 students, faculty and staff as 2015 Men of Merit at a reception in the Kansas Union. Alumni Association member Steve Allton, c’01, f’02, l’04, g’14, staff attorney for legal services for students; Life Member James Modig, a’73, University architect and director of design and construction management; and Student Alumni Association member Drew Carlburg, a senior in applied behavioral sciences, were among those who received the distinction.
Honorees were selected as individuals who positively define masculinity through challenging norms, taking action and leading by example while making contributions to the University or their community.
“I am lucky to work with people who are passionate about helping students,” said Allton. “The Men of Merit recognition is simply a byproduct of working with outstanding individuals who are vested in the success of our students and our university.”
Former KU football player Gary Green created the KU Men of Merit poster campaign seven years ago to increase awareness of the importance of education and involvement in men’s lives, inspire campus men to take an active role in their college experience and provide role models and mentors for men to be successful.
Whether it was in the midst of Budig 320 or over a crunchy chicken cheddar wrap at the Market, hanging out on Wescoe Beach or at a network watch party years later, countless Jayhawks owe their marriage to their time on the Hill. We’re sharing some of our favorite stories this week in anticipation of Valentine’s Day on Saturday, Feb. 14.
Kelly (Underwood) Blackburn, c’10, and Logan Blackburn, h’08, g’10
Kelly and Logan’s love story prominently features their beloved KU—they even tied the knot on campus. Kelly shared their story with us.
“My husband and I met in November 2009. I was a senior at KU on the Lawrence campus and he was in his last year of his Master’s program at KU Medical Center. Our first date included our favorite places in Lawrence, which meant we ended up walking down Jayhawk Boulevard and by the Campanile.”
“We both graduated in May 2010 and walked down the Hill together. After graduation we moved to Wichita and, over the next four and a half years, we bought a house, adopted a puppy and made our home. We were married on 12/13/14 on campus! Our ceremony was at Danforth Chapel and our reception was in the Kansas Ballroom at the Union. As always, the Hill provided the perfect backdrop to our love story.”
The KU Memorial Unions and Student Union Activities hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 29 to mark the grand opening of the Jayhawk Collection, which has a permanent home—thanks to the generosity of local donors James and Mary Ellen Ascher—in the Union’s level two corridor.
The 1,000-plus piece collection, which is displayed in floor-to-ceiling glass cases designed by Sabatini Architects and constructed by B.A. Green Construction, boasts almost any piece of KU memorabilia imaginable, including Jayhawk figurines in every shape and size, apparel, lamps, pens and even antique popcorn tins.
Kenneth “Bud” Jennings, ’57, who started the collection when he was 12, happily spoke to the crowd about the origins of his impressive assortment of KU memorabilia. “My neighbor, who worked at KU, gave me my first Jayhawk toy,” he recalled. From there, the collection only grew as Jennings went to garage sales and auctions over the years.
The collection had been on display in the Union for four years through an agreement with Jennings before he finally decided to auction it off. That was when James, ’51, and Mary Ellen, assoc., stepped in to make a donation to keep the collection where it belonged—on the KU campus.
Mike Reid, director of public affairs, acknowledged the Aschers’ generosity during the ceremony’s opening statements. “Thanks to the Aschers for stepping forward and keeping the Jayhawk spirit alive,” he said. “And thanks for letting us continue to share this collection with all of the Jayhawk nation.”
The Aschers also attended the ceremony and were on hand to help cut the ribbon. “I think it’s beautiful,” James said. “I’m amazed at what they’ve accomplished. The people who put this together are really the ones who get the credit.”
After the ceremony, participants walked the hallway, admiring the collection, which now also contains pieces donated by others in the KU community, and sharing their own stories about pieces they had acquired over the years. Curtis Marsh, j’92, director of KU Info, recognized a hat he had contributed to the collection and was excited to see it displayed with the other historical items. “No one’s going to believe me that it’s my contribution,” he joked.
The Jayhawk Collection is available for viewing at no charge during the Union’s normal operating hours. Be sure to stop by on your next visit to campus.
Watch the slideshow below to see photos from the event and of the Jayhawk Collection. Photos by Dan Storey.
Thank you to all of the Association members who attended our first members-only tailgate Sept. 6 on Level 1 of the Kansas Union. More than 200 members and guests attended the event, and we appreciate all of the feedback we received.
To better serve alumni and friends, we have fine-tuned several aspects of the tailgate for the KU-Central Michigan game.
The tailgate will be held from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on Sept. 20 in the Hawks Nest on Level 1 of the Kansas Union.
Some of the changes we’re making include:
Double-sided buffet in a more spacious area for quicker service
Expanded menu, featuring a Philly Cheesesteak bar: hoagie buns, Philly beef and chicken, peppers & onions; beer-battered sidewinder fries with cheese sauce & chili; marinated vegetable trio; and marbled sheet cake
Additional seating inside
Larger tables on the patio
Kids’ activities will be in the JayBowl—in addition to activities on Level 4
Show your membership card at the door, and you and up to four guests can enjoy the buffet. Each guest also receives two drink coupons for soft drinks and beer or wine for those 21 and over. The cost is $12 per person; kids 5 and under are admitted free.
Don’t miss the fun with the Marching Jayhawks, Spirit Squad and mascots. You’ll enjoy KU camaraderie and a great view of campus—all within a short walk from Memorial Stadium. We will see you Sept. 20!
P.S. KU Band Day will also take place on Sept. 20, and thirty high school bands will perform with the KU bands at halftime. The Band Day parade will be held at 9 a.m. on Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence.