So you’ve seen that the Union is the cause of Market Street becoming one-way, that the building is being encased in glass and that there are portaloos in the carpark – but what’s it all about?
Our Union building is 40 years old, and much like the library, became outdated for the 21st century. That’s not just because it looks out of place, but we don’t have enough space to meet the increasing demand from our societies, as more and more groups affiliate. Our venue is massive, harking back to a day when there were a handful of bigger events, rather than a stream of varied options – many of them by the already-mentioned expanded number of societies. The student market has changed, and we’re changing with it.
The Union redevelopment is spread across four main phases. We’re currently in the first phase, which will finish in Spring 2014. Around March or April, we’ll be opening our new coffee shop and Association shop along the front of the building. Connected, they will be the new face of the Union, with a coffee shop aimed at students for you to enjoy. Before then, phase two will have started, which redevelops the main bar. The bar’s final day in action will be 20 December, and then construction begins on converting it into two spaces. “Sandy’s” will be a more traditional pub (in the area where the pool tables currently are); and a main bar which will be overhauled, moving the bar and stripping out the raised circle area. The two spaces combined will be larger than the current main bar, and should give students more options on where they want to go.
While the main bar is closed, it’s my job to try and make the best of Venue 1. There WILL be alternative bar space during second semester. The beer bar is currently geared up to withstand Sinners and serve a club setting, but we’re changing how it feels to be a comfortable bar space. We’re repainting it, expanding the drinks range, changing how we heat the space, bringing in the comfy sofas and pool tables from the main bar, and dividing the space right down with projector screens (to show sport, television or scenic St Andrews pictures) so it’s not lost in the cavern of Venue 1. I obviously want to protect our bar space, not just because all of the money we make off them goes back into supporting the student experience – I’m also adamant we don’t lose some of the functions of Venue 1. Mermaids need a theatre; RAG Week needs a Catwalk; some want a Bop and others want a Sinners; Poolsoc need their tables. They’re all staying.
Phase three will follow over the summer, first working on the second floor society spaces, and then the first floor offices. Both spaces will be opened for proper use for the second semester of the 2014-15 year; which is when Venue 1 will close in phase four. Venue 1 will be split into a 120 seat performance space, and a nightclub… but with a retractable wall, so there’s still room to dance around to ceilidh or a big live act.
The project will be complete in November 2015. In the meantime, only one part of the Union is closed at any one time – next semester Venue 1, Venue 2 and the society spaces are still available. I hope you wish your memories of the main bar goodbye this December with one last drink, as it won’t be here for 2014 – I’m certainly going to miss it