By Keith Gushard
It’s been a whole new dining experience this month for Connor Baughman and his fellow students at the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville.
McKinney Commons is a new $4.6 million campus dining facility that’s even open to the public and offering a broader menu selection that’s available daily. Its offerings include stone hearth oven pizza, strombolis, fresh breads, made-to-order deli options, flame-broiled grill options, a cook-to-order station, full salad bar, soups and desserts.
It’s drawing rave reviews from Baughman and others.
“It’s more convenient, the food is better and nicer quality, and there’s more variety,” Baughman of Meadville, a sophomore at the school, said while dining at McKinney Commons Wednesday.
Olyvia Drake, a sophomore from Titusville who commutes to campus, agrees.
“I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth when paying to eat here,” she said.
Though open since early January, UPT officials Wednesday formally dedicated the facility — which included an 8,100-square-foot addition to the J. Curtis McKinney Student Union. Construction of the project took a year to complete.
Approximately 40 percent of the $4.6 million cost was funded by the McKinney family, which donated the original campus buildings in 1963 while the rest was funded by the University of Pittsburgh.
McKinney Commons replaces a small cafeteria at Ball Hall on the upper side of campus.
The intent of the recent renovations was to improve the efficiency of the dining services and to increase social interaction on the campus, according to UPT officials.
Students said the project does just that.
“The previous spot was pretty bad,” Baughman said.
“This is really great because I get to spend meal time with my friends on campus,” Drake said. “It’s a place to go.”
Diamond Ware of Aliquippa, who is a freshman at UPT, said both the food and atmosphere are much better.
“I love it. There are a lot more options,” Ware said. “You realize there are a lot more people here.”
McKinney Commons is part of enhancing enrollment at the UPT campus, according to Livingston Alexander, president of the University of Pittsburgh at both TItusville and Bradford.
The UPT campus had 313 full-time students and 75 part-time students for the fall of 2012, according to the University of Pittsburgh Fact Book.
In May 2012, UPT’s administration was realigned with administrative oversight of the campus going to Pitt-Bradford. There were 12 regular and four-part staff positions at UPT also eliminated.
Alexander said the realignment and staff cuts were necessary to ensure viability and efficient use of financial resources for the campus. The goal is to increase student enrollment to 470 full-time equivalent students over time, Alexander said.
“We’re taking things one step at a time,” he said following the dedication ceremonies. “We’re finding the right level of staffing support and faculty support. We also want to have the best services available for our students and best academic programs available.”
Attorney Emil Spadafore Jr. of Meadville, who serves on the UPT Advisory Board and the University of Pittsburgh’s board of trustees, said the McKinney Commons project shows a commitment by the university.
“This facility will allow us to compete for students,” Spadafore said. “You have a beautiful new facility that’s open, that’s light, that creates a gathering place for students. You now have the social environment that students will want to be in. ... It’s a major positive step.”
McKinney Commons was built to complement the recent renovations to Boomer’s in the student union. Boomer’s was renovated to provide a retail outlet for students, faculty, staff and the Titusville community.
The new construction also provides much-needed multiple use space to accommodate a variety of campus events and activities, according to UPT officials.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.