A look into the past of the University Center
Despite many changes since its construction in 1982, the University Center has consistently provided service to students.
In the University Center, a line of students coils tightly behind behind two cash registers. The students are anticipating the moment when that white paper bag will pop open so that they can haul their steaming chicken sandwich off to some place more intimate.
Around them, the crowd surges and sweeps past, out the double doors and then back in to reorganize in the Starbucks queue, where it mentally froths over drink orders. In an hour the seats are empty and the crowd is gone, but, like the barn swallows and squirrels darting beneath the tables, they will be back for dinner. Such is life in the University Center.
It wasn’t always so. In fact, the area that is now Starbucks and Chick-fil-A used to be referred to as The UC Pub. Burgers, fries and other typical pub fare (including booze in the evening) were available to students and staff, who could enter through either the double doors most students are familiar with, or an alternate pair of doors located where the first floor vending machines are currently.
“The University Center was really the main hub for students,” said Lt. Bruce Perry, class of ’97 and officer for the UMBC Police Department. In addition to eating, students could also rent VHS tapes or blow off steam in the game room on the second floor. Like now, the University Center was also home to UMBC’s student run radio station, WMBC.
“Believe it or not the radio station was pretty active, even though you could only tune into it on campus,” said Perry. WMBC now broadcasts over the web.
Despite all its activity, the University Center of the past was a quieter place. It had to be, because at one point the UMBC bookstore was located on the first and second floors.
Dr. Robert Deluty, associate professor of psychology and associate dean of the graduate school, has been at UMBC for 34 years.
“The University Center was nowhere near as multi-service. Now you can get a frappuccino and waffle-fries at the same time,” Deluty said.
It seems the constant buzz of activity that characterizes the University Center today wasn’t always the case. But, as Dr. Deluty said, “Maybe it’s the caffeine.”
Students and faculty who make use of mail services might be interested to know that they haven’t always been located in the building. George Bagwell, who has been with UMBC for 30 years, said that at one point the mail room was located in Gymnasium 1. Those asking where Gymnasium 1 is might still be able to find a piece of it beneath the Commons’s foundation.
The University Center may be changing again soon. According to the 2009 Campus Master Plan, updated in 2013, future renovation to the University Center will “address the lack of appropriate and functional interactive teaching and learning support spaces to ensure student success at UMBC.”
However, no matter what changes the future brings, the University Center will surely accommodate, just as it always has.