Carpet protection tape, yellow caged lights, plywood and white tarps have made it difficult for students to eat and navigate through the BYU Store. However, this construction has dramatically changed the appearance of the dining and shopping areas in the Wilkinson Student Center, and students have taken notice.
Jake Arnett, a sophomore studying pre-business, talked about the appreciation he had for the increase in how much seating is available in the dining area. However, he shared his concern about the lines, especially during lunch.
“With Wendy’s and Chick-fil-A, a lot of lines seem to converge and get kind of confusing once they get longer,” Arnett said. “That’s the only downside I’ve seen.” He suggested that the addition and popularity of Wendy’s could have something to do with the longer lines.
Joe Tiapson, assistant director of BYU Dining Services, talked about some of the changes that have been made to decrease traffic and increase seating space in the dining area. Because of the complicated nature of these changes and the lack of space, Tiapson said the changes had to be carried out in stages.
The first changes were made to the back kitchens and the first floor to increase efficiency in meal preparation. The next stages included changes to the kitchens on the third floor and the catering and dining areas.
Tiapson said the current dining area is an improvement on what it used to be.
“The previous seating configuration in the Cougareat was very inefficient. We ran multiple studies assessing our seating efficiency during peak periods,” Tiapson said. “During these peak periods, where it felt like we were completely at capacity, we really only had about 63% of our seats filled.”
After assessing the old model and conducting research, Dining Services created a layout that improved efficiency, created clearly defined paths and increased the number of electric outlets near tables. Since making the changes, the percentage of seats filled has increased to 80%.
Tiapson also said Dining Services has been trying to improve queuing that has become “more and more congested” over the years. To help improve the queues, Cougar Express was moved out of the middle of the food court.
Milk & Cookies was also added between the dining area and the BYU Bookstore. Tiapson said there are still some things that need to be changed or updated, but all of the big projects are done.
“We have new murals, signs, pictures that are currently in production,” Tiapson said. “These will adorn the walls and continue to enhance the overall environment.”
Not only have the dining areas of the Wilkinson Student Center changed, but so has the BYU Store. Bekka McLawhorn, a senior studying political science, said the relocation of what is now called the Sweet Stop is an improvement.
“I think where the candy counter was, was super inconvenient,” McLawhorn said. “It was just a path where a lot of people walked to get from point A to point B.”
Mark Clegg, director of the BYU Store, said the crowding happening around what used to be called the Candy Counter was part of the reason it was relocated. In fact, Clegg said that around 10,000 people walk through the store every day. This includes students walking from class to class.
Another change to the BYU Store was the addition of the large viewing screen at the north end of the store that features stadium seating.
Clegg said he hopes the screening area will bring more people in and help build a calendar of events.
With the second book of “Saints” coming out, Clegg plans to give students the opportunity to hear from the people involved in its creation.
“I have arranged with the Church to have a historical writer that worked on the project come down once a week for the four weeks leading up to the release date to give a presentation in that area,” Clegg said.
Another interesting change to the BYU Store is the number of displays scattered throughout the main floor. One of these is a large Lego replica of the Brigham Young Academy made of “60,000 Lego pieces from 47 different countries.”
Another is a collection of three sets of wood flooring currently hanging from the ceiling above the Lego replica.
“That is the original Marriott Center flooring that represents the three eras of BYU basketball,” Clegg said. “We originally were in the WAC, then we’re in the Mountain West. Now we’re in the West Coast Conference.”
Though there have been many changes to the BYU Store, Clegg hinted at changes he anticipates happening in the future.
“There are plans for continued subtle changes,” Clegg said, “that may affect all of the floors.”