On any given night before April 8th, senior track and cross country runner Josh Barrows would run straight from practice to the Ordahl Dining Hall.
As practice times often coincided with dining hall hours, it wasn’t uncommon for Barrows to swipe his student ID with just two minutes to spare before the doors closed at 7 p.m.
But now, as dining services extended its hours to stay open until 8 p.m. for the rest of the semester, athletes and students have more time to score a hot meal. Dining Services staff still shuts down the two main lines after 7 p.m., but it moves the leftovers to the grill area and keeps the wrap station, salad bar, yogurt and bagel areas open.
The staff members still begin the cleaning process, but allow athletes and students time to relax.
Shannan Nelson, vice president for Finance and Administration, said the pilot study was prompted by the Vision 2030 athletic steering committee to enhance the athlete’s experience.
Student athletes maintain 30 percent of Dining Services’ meal plans, but—like Barrows—some struggle to take full advantage when lifting or post-workout stretches go longer than expected.
“When I get to the commons [now], I don’t have to shovel food down,” Barrows said. “I can eat at a regular rate and still—if I’m hungry—get a second plate. Food shouldn’t be something you’re stressed about.”
Seven days in, Nelson said 87 total students swiped in after 7 p.m.
Nelson said monitoring swipes allows Dining Services to evaluate the number of students that take advantage of the extended hours and to evaluate the financial impact of extended hours.
“If it’s something that we think is going to work well, then we’ll evaluate that additional cost into the overall price structure,” Nelson said.
Damian Lewis, Dining Services general manager, said the main challenge of the pilot study is adjusting employee schedules to fit the extra hour.
“Overall, the staff has been very willing to adapt to serve the students,” Lewis wrote in an email. “Extending the supper hour by any more would be increasingly difficult to staff with our current employees, and require additional staff to be hired.”
Track and field head coach Tracy Hellman said athletic practices take longer now than they did in the past, especially with a focus on pre- and post-practice stretching and lifting.
Track and field athletes have an added disadvantage, as they won’t have a home track until this fall.
This means tracksters must practice at surrounding high school complexes but can’t start their workouts until after 5 p.m. when the high school athletes are done.
“The athletes now, they’re not so rushed,” Hellman said. “A healthy diet in everyday living is really, really important. It’s [like] putting good fuel in the car.”