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The cornerstone of the University of Tennessee’s ongoing campus transformation is now open. The first phase of the long-awaited new Student Union welcomed its first visitors Monday morning.

The 142,000-square-foot-building is the new central hub for students, faculty, and staff to meet, eat, and relax. The Student Union provides much-needed space to enhance services for the university’s more than 27,000 students. The project took three years to complete.

Doors opened to serve the first regular session of student orientation, which began today for freshmen enrolling this fall.


Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek said the Student Union serves as the heart of UT’s campus.

“We are excited and proud to open this beautiful building that our campus community has been anxiously waiting to enjoy,” Cheek said. “The new Student Union is the centerpiece in our ongoing efforts to transform our student learning and living spaces.”

When the second and final phase of the Student Union is complete, it will represent the largest single construction project in UT’s history. The building replaces the Carolyn P. Brown Memorial University Center built in 1954. A dedication ceremony for the first phase is set for September 11.

The new facility is a contemporary approach to collegiate gothic architectural design, which seeks to honor UT’s heritage and its promise for the future. Large glass expanses and an outdoor plaza provide visitors with views of the Hill, Neyland Stadium, and the west side of campus.

Modern Features and Gathering Spaces

 The building’s interior features orange accents and its large rooms are designed for students to study and socialize with comfortable spaces for meetings and group collaborations. Alumni accomplishments, campus icons, and points of interest will be displayed through large-scale graphics and an artistic mural to be installed this summer.

Some additional features include:

  • Extension of the Johnson Ward Pedestrian Walkway to an outdoor plaza and courtyard with links to the new Pedestrian Bridge to the Hill and an adjacent Blueberry Falls greenway.
  • A glass and terrazzo staircase that links four floors of the building.
  • Green building features include a lighting system that adjusts to make best use of natural daylight to save on energy costs. All new UT buildings are built to meet LEED standards.
  • The first two levels house the VolShop, VolTech, and VolBooks stores. The new VolShop is 14,500 square feet and offers more than twice the amount of apparel offered in the previous University Center. VolTech, an Apple authorized campus store, is twice the size of its prior location. VolBooks has expanded its space to offer the latest course materials, e-books, books, and class supplies.
  • More dining options and expanded seating include a Chick-Fil-A, Qdoba, Salad Creations, and AFC Sushi on the third floor and a Starbucks and Subway on the fourth floor.

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The Center for Career Development occupies the entire fifth floor. Staff members look forward to having higher visibility and increased opportunity to engage more students in their programs and services. The upgraded environment provides better space to host employers from across the country to encourage their recruitment of UT students. The space includes offices for twenty-two staff members and ten student peer career advisors, fifteen interview rooms, an employer greeting room, and three video practice interview rooms. The floor also features two classrooms for workshops and other general functions.


Guest parking for the Student Union is available in the Volunteer Hall Garage, which is accessible from Cumberland Avenue to White Avenue.

 Looking Forward

 The second and final phase of construction begins immediately and is set to be completed in spring 2018.

Once the second phase of the Student Union is completed, the building will offer approximately eight dining establishments with more than 1,000 dining seats. The second phase will include a 1,000-seat auditorium, a 12,000-square-foot ballroom, and additional meeting rooms and office space.

The current budget of the entire project, which includes two building phases, improvements to Staff 9 Parking Lot, and the expansion of the Pedestrian Mall and Phillip Fulmer Way is $167 million and is funded through student fees and the revenue-generating operations of the Student Union.

A joint venture team of BarberMcMurry architects/McCarty Holsaple McCarty Architects & Interior Designers designed the building. Rentenbach is the general contractor.

For more information on the Student Union’s progress, visit the Cone Zone website.


Katherine Saxon (865-974-8365,