From a fire dragon to football suites, Ball State's dining staff has loads of ground to cover

August 7, 2007

Woodworth Commons
A computerized system allows patroms to custom-order sandwiches.
Ball State's dining staff members are in high gear.

They're busy serving all the new patrons to the renovated and expanded Woodworth Commons dining facility, which opened Aug. 15. In addition, they're preparing to offer catering services in the modernized Scheumann Stadium.

From sterile to cozy modern

Anyone familiar with Woodworth will be truly surprised and pleased with the changes, dining director Jon Lewis said. Woodworth offered limited fare in its original configuration, which was dated and needed an upgrade to accommodate the number of students served.

Now the redesigned area features taste treats to satisfy even the most finicky palate. However, taste isn't the only sense that will be treated. Woodworth features an expanded dining area to seat about 550, open food preparation courts, a two-story atrium and beautiful stone, tile and woodwork throughout.

In addition, there are more cozy dining areas interspersed throughout the renovated space and one private room that can be reserved for meetings.

"We took out the mid-'80s design - that was a lot of white tile that was very sterile-looking - and replaced it with something that is beautiful and much more appealing, especially the atrium, which brightens the whole area," Lewis said. "In addition, with this setup, the customer is going to see the bulk of the food preparation in front of them."

For example, at the Dellacasa station, a beautiful wood-oven stove will be the focal point as cooks prepare specialty pizzas as customers watch. This also is where other Italian favorites including pastas and sandwiches will be prepared.

Nearby, El Fire Dragon area boasts a huge copper hood over a circular grill. Featured prominently in the center of the marketplace, El Fire Dragon will include Asian-themed fare three days a week and Mexican-styled offerings twice weekly. At this station, patrons will choose their own fresh vegetables, meats and sauces, and then watch as they are cooked.

Originally, the area was set to offer only Asian-style cuisine, but the plan changed when officials began looking at what students typically expect. "Colleagues and consultants who have designed these facilities have found that students equally like Asian and Mexican offerings, and we thought this was a wonderful way to meet their expectations," Lewis said.

Other Woodworth features include a spinning salad station and world-themed or create-your-own grinders, wraps and deli sandwiches. For the breakfast and coffee enthusiast, Woodworth will have its own bright red La Marzocco espresso machine featuring Starbucks coffee, as well as a patisserie where patrons can create their own omelets and special pastries during breakfast hours. Throughout the day, it will feature pies, cookies, cupcakes and other baked goods.

The popular Woodie's Grille and the Comfort Zone will return, featuring such favorites as charbroiled burgers, specialty sandwiches, grilled chicken, grilled fish and comfort food favorites such as meat loaf, soups, chicken and noodles, fried chicken, homemade macaroni and cheese and hot desserts.

The dining staff expects to serve about 1,200 people at lunch and at least 3,000 total daily. Hours vary for each of the food venues, but generally are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

In addition to the food courts, a fully stocked emporium and a delicatessen are open from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday and from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Sundays. They are closed on Saturdays,

Although food operations will not continue around the clock, the atrium and the cozy seating areas will remain open 24 hours a day to provide students with another space on campus in which to socialize and study.

"We're excited about the reopening of the Woodworth Commons," Lewis said. "We feel strongly that this new facility will add to the vitality of the campus." 

Changes extend to football suites

Across campus, dining and catering employees are creating a game plan - how to handle dining services not offered previously in Scheumann Stadium, set to reopen late this month after a $13.7 million renovation and expansion.

"We will be ready for the first home game on Aug. 30," Lewis said. "We're just starting to see our part of the facility and to determine how we will provide food in the leased suites and in the press box, which we haven't done in the past. Plus we'll also offer concessions in the club level, which also is new this year."

The suite menus are being set now, Lewis said, and those leasing the facilities will have choices ranging from hors d'oeuvres to full-scale meals, compliments of Ball State's own catering department.

From desserts to snacks, everything should be ready in time for the first game, Lewis said. After the season opener, Ball State has three away games, so the catering staff can fine-tune procedures.

To handle the new stadium services, Ball State spent about $100,000 on new equipment. However, no new catering staff has been added, Lewis said.

In addition to leased suites and new concession stands, the stadium improvements include new lights for playing night games, new restrooms and a larger and improved press box and entertainment center with home and visitor media areas and a state-of-the-art pressroom. The north end zone has been enclosed to include a grassy seating area. The west plaza and ticket office have been enhanced, and the playing surface switched from grass to artificial turf.

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