Christina Pullano/Editor-in-Chief

After a year and a half wait and a weeklong “soft opening” full of free samples and first glimpses, the Binghamton University Marketplace officially opened its doors today. With 12 “food concepts” and a completely new layout, the site of the old Food Court and Susquehanna Room is nearly unrecognizable.

The 12 stations, many of them concepts developed by Sodexo, are Red Mango, Pandini’s, Mein Bowl, a convenience store, SubConnection, Cafe Spice, The Diner, Garden Toss, Wholly Habaneros, a cafe serving Starbucks coffee, New York Street Deli and International, a breakfast and rotating lunch kiosk. The stations vary in their hours of operation, but the cafe will be open for 24 hours on weekdays, and seating will be available 24/7.

At a reception celebrating the Marketplace’s opening last Tuesday, Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Rose explained the vision for the new area — one that extends beyond simply a food court.

“We hope students will think of creative ways to use the capacity and the space,” Rose said.

Rose said he wants to see students using the Marketplace for programming events such as open mic nights or performances. He said that the TVs installed in the seating areas have audiovisual capabilities that will make such events more feasible.

The technological innovations continue in the beverage department. Disposable drink cups each have an RFID tag on the bottom, which will allow for one “fill” at the drink station, according to ValidFill representative Tom McCann. Students will be able to purchase a Bearcat travel mug with a rechargeable RFID chip in it, and either a package with a certain number of “fills” or an unlimited package.

The Diner features local options, with meat and dairy products from family-owned farms and Italian sausage from Binghamton’s own Lupo’s Char-Pit.

Dena Wilson, a senior majoring in accounting, spent last week relishing in the flavors of the new food stations.

“I think Binghamton has really outdone itself with the construction of the Union,” said Wilson, a senior majoring in accounting. “It’s amazing and I’ll probably spend 90 percent of my last semester hanging out and eating there. Who needs Restaurant Week?”

Derek Smith, a senior majoring in Arabic, agreed with Wilson.

“I enjoyed the food. I thought that Cafe Spice was definitely on point. It’s nice to have such a large variety of options, and more healthy options, too,” Smith said.

He added that the increased seating is a plus of the renovated Union.

“The old Union’s cafeteria style was horrid,” Smith said. “I think the variety in seating is what really makes the whole thing great, and overall it just looks way more collegiate now and less like a prison cafeteria.”

According to Rose, the 12 dining concepts could evolve over time with student needs.

“We’ll see what is popular, how the seating works and how the students actually use the space,” Rose said. “We’ll make adjustments in operating hours and in other ways, if necessary, to maximize the number of visitors and increase the value it brings to the campus.”

In addition to the food area construction, the renovations, which totaled $18 million, included portions of the north University Union, creating a walkable space that flows between the two previously disconnected Unions. Within this area will be the Career Development Center, Center for Civic Engagement, Tutoring Center, Educational Opportunity Program and TriO.

Sodexo managers are seeking input from students for future plans and endeavors through the newly created Student Culinary Council.

Jill Shotwell, a senior double-majoring in environmental studies and geography, heads up the council. She said meetings are open to all students who wish to voice opinions about campus dining options.

“It’s a place to create change,” Shotwell said. “We want to hear the issues, and we also want to do something about them.”

The council will hold its first meeting Wednesday evening.