No longer sitting dormant, Coffman Union comes alive

Josh Linehan

There was free cake and a malfunctioning escalator, speakers and a pep band rendition of the rouser, complimentary bowling and plenty of questions for the folks working the information desk.

But most of all, there was finally a student union.

Hundreds of students drawn by curiosity, a quick break between classes or an escape from the bitter cold Tuesday flocked to the grand reopening of Coffman Union. For the first time since November 1999, the Gopher-shaped building on the east bank of the Mississippi River opened for business.

The throng milled about the building over the noon hour Tuesday, checking out the new surroundings.

Goldy Gopher put on a tuxedo for the occasion. Mason Jennings held a concert in the remodeled Great Hall and movie screenings occurred periodically, in an attempt to showcase all the new union has to offer. There was even the grand opening of the first Chick-fil-A franchise in Minnesota, complete with the opportunity to have a Polaroid taken with a cow sporting a sign reading “Eat mor Chikin.”

Closed for more than three years and ultimately costing $72 million, Coffman came alive once more. And after such a long closure, Twin Cities Student Union Board of Governors officials and organizers are planning a weeklong party for the reopening.

Trevor Wahlquist, a junior kinesiology major, took advantage of the free bowling to roll a few frames with his friends. He was impressed by the new Coffman.

“It’s pretty awesome,” he said. “It’s convenient. I’m looking forward to spending some time here.”

Staffers at the new information booth reported brisk traffic in questions, the most popular regarding where to get copies of the Daily (get there early) and how to buy a U Pass (you can’t buy them there.)

All told, the festival atmosphere was hard to contain.

“It’s nice to have a place where students can come and hang out,” said sophomore biology major Steve Williamson.

Others praised the homey feeling of the main entrance, where oversized chairs sit around a burning fireplace. Still others were left with bitter feelings about the long closure.

Biological science junior Jon German set foot for the first time in a union he has been financing for nearly three years on Tuesday.

“It’s about time,” he said.

Josh Linehan welcomes comments at [email protected]