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Hampshire Dining Common holds re-opening celebration

The University of Massachusetts held a ceremonial ribbon cutting on Sept. 10 to officially celebrate the re-opening of the newly renovated Hampshire Dining Common in the Southwest Residential Area.

The ribbon cutting was the main event of the evening, in which Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy unleashed giant scissors to break the finish line of this redesign effort, a two-year, $15.5 million project with nine months of construction time.

Delia Barth/Daily Collegian

The chancellor, Director of Auxiliary Enterprises Ken Toong and Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance James Sheehan made congratulatory speeches.

“This was a fantastic event, and marks great progress for UMass dining,” said Sheehan after the event. “The fact that we were able to take what was essentially a non-functional, outdated dining common and transform it into something much better and healthier, just in time for the opening of the Commonwealth Honors College dorms … it’s great,” he said.

The ceremony also featured five guest chefs from around the nation, serving specialty foods inspired by various international cuisines.

To top off the pomp and circumstance, a section of the UMass Minuteman Marching Band marched into the hall and performed a rendition of the UMass fight song amongst a crowd of diners. The administration anticipated about 3,500 students to attend the celebration.

“This event was our way of showcasing to students and alumni what the renovated dining common has to offer,” said Toong. “We have implemented healthier eating options in this hall, with a specific focus on providing more locally-sourced foods, as well as cutting back on sodas and soft drinks,”

With 1,500 students now living in the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Complex, there was a need for more dining options in the Southwest Residential Area. Thus, the newly redesigned dining common now boasts an ovular layout, the first such floor plan of any university dining hall in the nation, according to Toong. The kitchen and service area is centered in the middle of the hall, with seating and drink stations located around the perimeter. This, Toong says, is meant to reduce student traffic around the service area and improve the flow of the dining common.

According to Toong, the renovated Hampshire will stand as a model for the “new generation” of UMass Dining, focusing on sustainability, support of local agriculture and improved relations with local food suppliers.

“This partnership is probably one of the best things that has happened for us,” said Larry Katz, owner of Chicopee-based Arnold’s Meats, which supplies about 75 percent of the beef used in the renovated Hampshire. Katz, a UMass alumni, joked that he now considers the chancellor another owner of Arnold’s Meats.

The renovated Hampshire will also feature a new permaculture garden outside to provide fresh vegetables for service in the dining hall, a design Toong plans to implement in each renovated dining common in the future.

According to Toong, Hampshire’s was the first of several planned renovations for UMass Dining. Next on the list is Blue Wall in the Campus Center, which will shut its doors for nine months in December for a total renovation in a similar style to Hampshire’s and inspired by chef Mario Batali’s “Eataly” in New York. Blue Wall is then scheduled to re-open, fully renovated, around August 15, 2014. After that, Worcester Dining Common is scheduled to undergo a similar transformation.

Conor Snell can be reached at csnell@umass.edu.

 

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