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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Construction to Begin on Dining Hall

New facility expected to open in January 2017.

Jessica Bies, Mankato Free Press, 6-9-2015

MANKATO — A new dining hall is going up at Minnesota State University, Mankato this summer, with the hope that once completed it will help alleviate long lines and crowding for food.

It will be able to serve more than 3,000 students, with more than 49,000 square feet of eating space. That's almost twice as many students the university's current dining hall is designed to serve — located in Carkoski Commons, it was built for 1,800 students, but currently serves 2,857.

Cindy Janney, director of residential life at Minnesota State Mankato, said though the university originally explored renovating Carkoski so it could accommodate more students, it would have been cost prohibitive to do so.

After the Gage Hall Towers were demolished in 2013, the commons became the university's only residential dining hall and underwent minor upgrades. But the building itself was built in 1959 and has aging mechanical systems and hard-to-modify spaces.

The new dining hall will entirely replace it, and marks a change in the way the university approaches food service. There will be very little "back-of-kitchen" work where food is prepared out of sight and brought out for student consumption.

Upgraded equipment and separate stations will make it possible to offer more options, as well as prepare allergen-free foods.

“The style of food service in 1959 was more based on a military model where a large amount of food was produced in a kitchen and brought out to a line and what was cooked was what was available," Janney said. "There's wasn't a whole lot of options .... instead of things happening behind a wall where (students) can't see what's going on, they'll be a lot of transparency."

A grill for chicken and other meats will be located near the salad bar, while an "exhibition" station will let students pick their own ingredients for certain dishes.

There will also be a large bakery where the university will prepare baked items for the entire campus and students will get to see them prepared.

Not only that, but the building has a lot to offer in terms of sustainable design, plans show. Heat produced by ovens and kitchen equipment will be recovered and used to control temperatures throughout the building. There will also be LED lighting and other energy-efficient fixtures.

"But the really big thing is we're designing this so we can compost food waste and other organics," Janney said. It will be shipped to a nearby composting facility at first, but eventually the university may even choose to treat the material onsite. “This building will allow us to process it and will reduce the amount (of waste) that's going out."

Construction of the new dining hall starts this month and will conclude November 2016. The new facility is expected to open January 2017.

It will be located south of the Crawford Residence Community and across from the Margaret R. Preska Residence Community, in what is currently a parking lot.

Costs are estimated at $31.4 million. The project is being funded through revenue bonds, which will be paid back using student room and board fees — not tuition money or tax dollars.

Once the new dining hall opens, Carkoski will serve as swing space during other university renovations.

Eventually the commons area will be demolished and there will be indoor walkways between the Crawford Residence Community, McElroy Hall, the Preska Residence Community and the dining hall. There will also be an outdoor gathering and activity space.

The entire version of this story can be read in a print copy of the Mankato Free Press or online. Call the Mankato Free Press at 625-4451 or (800) 657-4662 to find out how to purchase a print copy. The Free Press also prints select stories online at

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