It is time to wish the Bone Student Center a happy birthday as it turns 40 years old on Tuesday.
As a student union, the Bone has been the constantly evolving “hearthstone” or “living room” of campus, Michelle Paul, director of the Bone Center and Braden Auditorium, said.
Jim Carlson, the Bone’s director from 2008 to 2011 added, “It’s a place that students want to go, and that’s what makes it special … Really no other place on campus can serve in that capacity.”
Originally the Bone was opened in September 1973 as the University Union and Auditorium to fill students’ requests to replace the original student union that still stands south of Hovey Hall on the Quad.
The original plans for the union included a 14-story hotel with a small auditorium, bookstore and food court, Paul said.
“When they started doing their construction bids, the bids came in too high, so they nixed the hotel idea,” Paul said. “Instead, they decided to do Braden with its 3,500 seats in place of the intended 400 seats.”
In 1983, the union was renamed in honor of Robert Bone and Samuel Braden, both past presidents who served the university 14 years combined.
Director of Bone and Braden from 1978-1999 Chris Schwelle said in the early ‘80s the university took away just under $200,000 a year in utility support.
“We were told to start acting like a business,” Schwelle said.
In response, the Bone started charging outside users rent for use of rooms, obtained a liquor license, brought in fast food restaurants and added the first bookstore. They also began to bring live entertainment to Braden that was wildly popular with the local community.
Throughout the years, Braden has held countless concerts and important university events. A few of the most impressive include five performances by Bill Cosby, concerts by Brad Paisley, Sara Evans and Lonestar, as well as Broadway productions like “CATS,” “Grease” and “Hairspray.”
The Bone still holds close to 4,300 events per year, most of them hosted by student-run organizations, Paul said.
Schwelle said even though he expects the Bone to continue evolving throughout the next 40 years, he expects a few things to stay the same.
“What will stay the same … is changing to meet the needs of the current student body. As an example, in the early ‘80s, students wanted McDonald’s and Taco Bell. Now Einstein’s Bagels and McAlister’s are very popular … The brands may change but what will continue is the facility’s ability to meet the needs of the students.”
According to Paul, the university has approved a $2 million renovation to the Bone that will include expanding the food court and giving the main entrance a major facelift.
Free celebratory cupcakes served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday on the second floor of the Bone.