It’s out with the old and in with the new as plans to tear down Los Olivos Dining Commons are discussed and plans for a new dining commons and meal plans for students are underway. 

A rendering of the upcoming ancillary dining and conference area at the new dining commons. (Courtesy of Krista Spangler)

The new, 35,000-square-foot facility will be completed in fall 2020, the same time as the new residence halls, and will have around 700 seats, private dining areas, a late-night dining room and a built-in coffee shop. 

Director of Dining Services Aaron Neilson said new amenities will include a sushi bar, private dining areas and his favorite — a fresh tortilla-making station. 

“This is really exciting,” Neilson said. “Students can wait for whatever food they’re getting and they’ll be able to have a fresh tortilla right there.” 

As exciting as that can be, some students are apprehensive about the costs of a new meal plan and the changes it will bring.

Zachary Deigert, a second-year computer information systems major, said he’s worried about the space in the new dining common plus an increase in price. 

He currently pays around $1,300 per semester for his meal plan, which includes 750 meal points and 45 meal swipes per semester. Points can be used throughout campus, but swipes can only be used in limited spaces like The Den near the suites and the Pony Express Marketplace near the Business Building, among others.

“It was a little upsetting at first … you can no longer buy a plan with just points like I had the year before,” Deigert said. “You only have options for a meal plan with swipes.” 

The cheapest option in the new meal plan would be the suites value combo, which offers 70 meals and 750 meal points to use throughout the semester at a cost of around $1,700 per semester.

However, all meal plan options and rates are still pending the president’s approval, according to the university’s website. 

Deigert said he has a busy schedule and is also worried about waiting in long lines for the new dining common. He said he was upset about what he perceived to be a lack of transparency between University Housing Services, Dining Services and the students. 

Neilson said there are going to be long lines initially because the excitement of a new building will draw in crowds. But he said students worried about lines will be able to take food to go in take-out boxes too. 

As for the lack of transparency, Neilson said he didn’t know how to best get the word out. He said the meal plans were based off focus groups comprised of students. He said he’s working on a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) that will be posted on the university’s website.

“What we heard from students was that they wanted more flexibility with meal plans,” Neilson said.

Meal periods like dead hour or the time in between breakfast, lunch and dinner when students only have the option of a salad, sandwiches or soup will end due to popular demand. Students will no longer have a limit to the number of swipes to use per day. 

“With the dining hall moving from adjacent to the suites, we [members of Foundation Dining Services] figured students were going to want to use that,” Neilson said.

He said students living at the suites will get a set of options for meal plans that will be cheaper than those of first-year students living at the dorms, but they will be more expensive than the current plans.  

Los Olivos Dining Commons will close permanently as soon as the new dining commons opens.

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