St. Paul Student Center

by John Adams

The St. Paul Student Center sits back slightly from Buford Avenue, tucked behind a large flowerbed and trees. Two stories high, it squats discreetly into the ground, blending quietly into a quiet campus.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the mellow sounds of Melodious Lunches sets the ambiance for the union: low key, not too loud or busy.
Inside, the majority of the space is taken by the Terrace Cafe, an eating area rarely filled with people who are only there to eat. There are plenty of tables and booths used by groups or students there to study.
Nat Hemstad, a graduate student in water resources, said he goes there to eat, although he said the food selection is limited. He compared it to his former school St. Cloud State University, where fast food chains made up most of the cafeteria, he said.
The bookstore in the basement of the union draws most students downstairs. Daily attendance at the union ranges from about 5,000 to 7,000 students, staff and faculty members per day, said Sharon Gherity, student board of governors president.
The Outdoor Store is another service that brings students and faculty to the union. The store has about 1,000 students and faculty members who receive discounted prices. The store’s selection has nearly everything a larger outdoor store does, in a quarter of the space. It is one of the union’s many revenue producers.
The student center generates roughly 60 percent of its $2.5 million annual operating budget. Its big sister on the East Bank, Coffman Union, generates less than 50 percent of its operating costs. The majority of the St. Paul center’s funding comes from the Gopher Spot, a convenience store and bowling alley also in the basement.
These retail services are bolstered by the fact that they are on prime real estate. The retail landscape surrounding the St. Paul campus is barren.