UofL officials marked the SAC renovations with a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday.
UofL officials marked the SAC renovations with a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday.

University of Louisville officials broke ground Wednesday on an expansion and renovation of the Swain Student Activities Center (SAC) that will offer students more than 112,000 square feet of additional or renovated dining, retail, meeting and office space.

The renovation, which began over the summer, will offer greater meeting space for the more than 400 recognized student organizations on campus, more and better dining options and common areas where students can socialize and study. The renovation is financed through private sources, facility funds and a $9.6 million agency bond funded by the current student activities fee.

Construction on the project has already begun. It is expected to be completed in fall 2018.

“This expansion and renovation is part of a strategic effort to improve campus facilities — and the on-campus experience — for our 22,000 students,” Acting President Neville Pinto said during the ceremony. “By offering them more meeting and study areas, as well as better services and more social areas, we will improve their time on campus, which in turn will help us retain and graduate more students.”

In addition to Pinto, Board of Trustees Chairman Larry Benz, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Harlan Sands, Dean of Students Michael Mardis and Student Government Association President Aaron Vance spoke at the event. Each stressed the partnership between students and university leaders in completing and financing the project.

When Sands first arrived at UofL in 2015, plans were being developed for the renovation. He said the university listened to students’ concerns and helped develop a plan that addressed their needs.

“We listened, and we brought partners to the table to make this happen,” Sands said.

Vance, who thanked former SGA leaders who worked to make the renovation a reality, noted that the renovated SAC will be at the epicenter of the east side of campus, which is undergoing a physical transformation. 

“This side of campus is going to be nothing short of spectacular,” Vance said.

This is the first major renovation to the building since it opened in 1990. Mardis said the facility was transformative for the campus and that the building became the living room for campus, allowing students to congregate, dine, study and more.

The SAC is home to many of the university’s student services, including its Student Government Association, a number of dining venues and some small meeting rooms. It also houses the offices for the UofL athletics program.

During the renovation, the SAC remains open for use, though some of the areas will be closed at certain times. 

“It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle,” said Tim Moore, director of Student Involvement and the Student Activities Center. “As we’re able to finish a piece of the puzzle, we’re able to open that part of the building up and then close another part of the building.”

Updates on the renovation, including milestones, openings and closures, are available online

Moore added that the new additions and increased space will be a benefit for students. The number of registered student organizations has grown from 260 about 10 years ago to more than 400 during the last academic year. And some of the larger events held by students have had to move off-campus due to space constraints.

“It will be the kind of place that will be more suitable for our student groups,” Moore said. “It will be a better place for the university community.”

East SAC updates

Construction began on the first floor on SAC East in June. Updates include:

  • The former intramural offices and the racquetball courts have been demolished, and the new space is now offices and lab spaces for the Department of Health and Sport Sciences.
  • The new campus bookstore is being built on the SAC’s east side facing Floyd Street. The new store will have an entrance from the street level on Floyd. The space is expected to be ready in December, when the bookstore will vacate its west SAC location.
  • Construction of a Starbucks, scheduled to open in late spring, has begun on the corner of the building nearest the Floyd Street parking garage.
  • Work on the plaza in front of the bookstore will continue into spring 2017.

West SAC updates

Work on SAC West will begin later this semester. Projected timeframes include: 

  • PEACC and Health Promotion will move from the Student Services Annex later this fall into new offices on the third floor, which formerly housed the game room.
  • The student services annex will be demolished and prep work will begin later this year to make room for the SAC expansion.
  • After the bookstore moves to the new location in December, its former space on the west side will be converted into a new dining space that will open in fall 2017.

View more photos from the groundbreaking ceremony here

Video from the ceremony is also available below: