The UCF Student Union could be getting a $14 million expansion if a proposal from the UCF Board of Trustees receives positive votes at the Nov. 19 meeting.
The BOT Finance and Facilities Committee’s proposal would extend UCF’s current contract with Aramark, the operator of UCF Dining Services since 2001.
The multiyear agreement with the food-service provider commenced in 2006, and the contract could extend up to 2026, providing that the five-year extensions were mutually agreeable, according to BOT minutes from the committee’s Oct. 7 meeting.
“This would only impact vendors in the Student Union,” said UCF spokesman Chad Binette. “There would be no impact on vendors at Knights Plaza. They would remain separate from Aramark.”
Privately owned, non-Aramark restaurants in the Union, such as Subway and Wackadoo’s Grub & Brew, would therefore potentially be affected if the proposal were to be pushed through after the committee’s vote.
Bryan Horgan, a 2007 UCF alumnus, has been making sandwiches in the Union’s Subway since 1996, when it was built with the construction of the Union itself. It’s a family business for him, and the potential deal with Aramark has sparked red flags in his mind.
“Obviously we don’t want it to pass, as vendors, because it means that we would leave our lease, and that would be it,” he said.
Horgan said his main concerns were the possibility of mandatory meal plans for students, private vendors in the Union being unable to renew leases, an increase in campus dining prices due to a potential monopoly and no bid process to give other dining corporations the chance to be at UCF — because Aramark already has an established contract with UCF Dining.
“This proposed agreement would not impact students’ meal plan prices,” Binette said. “Any changes in meal plan prices must be approved by the university under the current agreement and also under the proposal.”
He also said retail prices for restaurants would still have to be comparable to off-campus location prices of those dining areas.
Student Government Association President Cait Zona said she is in favor of the proposal.
The proposal would nearly double the seating size in the Union, she said, in addition to providing a greater diversity of food options on campus.
“If you walk through the Student Union on a Wednesday, or any day, you have students sitting on the ground eating, you have people all over the place,” Zona said. “And that’s not conducive to the type of atmosphere we have at UCF.”
The expansion would not come from any student dollars, as Aramark would be fully funding the project, Zona said.
“A lot of other schools have great food courts, and I believe that this contract would allow us to step up in the Student Union,” she said.
Karen Cutler, Aramark vice president of corporate communications, said the company is excited about the opportunity at UCF.
“The proposed agreement was created based on student feedback and is designed to offer more variety, convenience and value,” Cutler said.
Vendors were notified of the proposal following the BOT’s Oct. 7 committee meeting due to the committee’s vote to move forward with it.
“This is only a proposal, and there is still time for feedback,” Binette said.
Due to Florida’s Sunshine Law, all BOT meetings are open to the public and are announced ahead of time. Therefore, non-Aramark vendors or other interested parties are able to attend the meetings and voice their thoughts on the proposal.
“It’s my job to stick up for what’s best for students in every capacity,” Zona said. “And I believe the renovation to the Student Union would be the best thing for students in the future and currently.”
Paige Wilson is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @ByPaigeWilson or email her at paigew@CentralFloridaFuture.com.