Updated dining room “Night” unveiled at Union Drive Marketplace


The new dining room, named “Night,” was completed at Union Drive Marketplace this summer.

Molly Blanco

ISU Dining recently unveiled the first of three expansive renovations at the Union Drive Marketplace dining center.

Dining invested more than $2 million in the renovations at the dining center.

Mohamed Ali, director of ISU Dining, said the department has plans to renovate all of Union Drive Marketplace (UDM) within the next two years. 

“We have a master plan to renew all of UDM,” Ali said.

The design plans are divided into three areas: “Morning,” “Day” and “Night.” Each section will aesthetically reflect that time of day with corresponding seating, lighting and decor. The Morning section, for example, will utilize lots of natural light, large windows and light colors to invite guests into the space. 

The Night section of the dining center, located behind the salad bar, was recently completed and is the first section to be renovated.  

Ali said the goal of the renovation was to transform UDM into a more enjoyable dining environment for students. 

“We want to get away from the typical dining hall or dining center renovation and be more like a restaurant,” Ali said. 

The renovations include updated seating and tables, new flooring, decorative wall design and mood lighting. 

“It looks like you’re in a swanky restaurant and not a university food service operation,” said Karen Rodekamp, associate director of engagement for ISU Dining.

The updated dining area also includes a new table arrangement that allows for additional and more comfortable seating. 

“The old table layout was really a challenge for us,” Rodekamp said.

Before the remodel, the large round tables at UDM reduced space and offered fewer seating options. With the remodel, they decided to place more two and four-person tables to fit more people comfortably.

According to Ali, the renewed environment in the dining center is coupled with enhanced food and new recipes. 

Throughout the summer, ISU Dining invited guest chefs to bring new meals to the dining center and teach staff how to make them.

Rodekamp said UDM was chosen for these renovations because it is the largest dining facility, serves the most students and is centrally located. 

Ali added that the dining center was outdated and needed renewal because it had not been updated since 2003. 

Ali said the upcoming renovation phases will take time to complete because the dining center stays open throughout the year. 

“The challenge with UDM is that our business location is open throughout the year. We cannot close for six months to do renovations, so we have to do it small,” Ali said. 

ISU Dining aims to make updates and improvements to their facilities every summer, according to Ali. The renovations are intended to give back to students by continually improving ISU Dining’s offerings. 

“Whatever we do, we do it for the students,” Ali said. “We want them to have good meals; we want them to have a good environment to eat and get food. At the end of the day, it is all about the students.”