University to remove Topper Café, restore South Lawn

WKU construction workers work to demolish Topper Café on South Lawn on Thursday June 12, 2014. Jeff Brown/HERALD

Aaron Mudd

This summer WKU will see the removal of the Topper Café, two years after the temporary building’s construction on the South Lawn. Once Topper Café’s removal is complete, the South Lawn will be restored to recreational green space.

Chief Facilities Officer Bryan Russell said he is excited about the change.

“It’s all gonna go back with irrigated sod lawn and we’ll have our South Lawn back for the students,” Russell said. “Can’t wait.”

Topper Café was first constructed in the summer of 2012 to make up for the displacement the Downing Student Union’s renovations caused. The building was instrumental in a two-year plan to preserve WKU’s food services to its students.

 “Topper Café was constructed for 550 student seating capacity and Fresh Food, as part of the project,” Russell said. “Then the second phase, when we took Fresh Food Company back to DSU, we then located the retail venues down to the Topper Café.”

Topper Café’s removal began after commencement, Russell said. The building housed Papa John’s, Chick-fil-A, Topper Grille, Topper Express and Izzi’s before it was demolished. Steve Hoyng, resident district manager for Aramark, told the Herald in May that Papa John’s and Chick-fil-A will move back to DSU while Izzi’s and Topper Grille will be removed completely. The Izzi’s at Garrett food court will remain open while Topper Grille will be replaced with Steak ‘n Shake located in DSU. Topper Express will not be replaced.

Russell said that the building would be down to a concrete slab within a few days. The building isn’t actually being demolished but instead disassembled and repurposed for a Bowling Green based general contracting construction company: Scott, Murphy, & Daniel, LLC.

After Topper Café’s removal, workers can begin to restore the green space the South Lawn previously provided.

“It’s kind of like having a park in the middle of campus,” Russell said. “It’s a great place to go meet people and have events.”

Russell said in May it will cost approximately $126,000 to remove the building and approximately $75,000 to restore the lawn. The money will come from the funds used for the DSU renovation. He anticipates the restoration to be complete in the middle of August before classes start this fall.

While students may be eager to use the South Lawn for tailgating or pick-up games again, Russell said Topper Café was a good solution short-term solution for WKU.

“It proved to be a very, very good choice and a great way to support everybody,” he said. “I thought it really turned out well for everybody.”