OPINION: The WKU Commons better live up to the hype

Price Wilborn, Commentary Writer

It’s finally here. The WKU Commons at Helm Library is finally completed and scheduled for an April 18 opening. It will open up four new dining options to Hilltoppers: Panda Express, Spencer’s Coffee, Rising Rolls and Moe’s Southwest Grill.

It’s taken long enough. Delays outside of the control of the university due to the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues pushed back the planned opening date several times. 

What began as a project scheduled to be completed and opened for the Fall 2021 semester was pushed back to an opening by the start of the Spring 2022 semester. Once again it was pushed back with no update on a timeframe until President Caboni’s email sent on Monday, April 11, announcing the opening of the facility. 

I’m only in my second semester on the Hill. Because of the delayed opening of the Commons, I’ve found myself going through phases of getting bored of the dining options on campus. Some weeks I eat several meals off campus just because I don’t want any of the same things as always.

It’s made me highly anticipate the opening of the Commons. I only tried Panda Express for the first time last semester and I fell in love, so I am very excited for WKU to have one on campus. I have yet to try Spencer’s, but having one on campus will make me more likely to try it, too. Same with Moe’s and Rising Rolls.

I just hope that it’s worth it. I know that the university could only do so much about the delays. The food trucks on campus were a smart move, giving students more options. They were a huge help to students who could not walk all the way down the Hill for lunch between classes.

I’m staying positive, but I do have a few apprehensions. The biggest of these are the hours that the dining options will be open–all will close by 2:30 in the afternoon. I will admit that I don’t know the reasoning behind this. It could be a wide range, from more of a “soft opening” for the rest of this semester to employee availability. The hours could change next semester, we just don’t know.

These hours, while helping greatly students who need the dining options closer to the top of the Hill, won’t help with dinner hours. I know that is not a concern for many, but I feel that it is a concern that needs to be addressed.

Dinner at DSU can be very hit or miss when it comes to getting a meal at a reasonable time. The lines are long most of the evening, unless you go to eat an early dinner. Steak ‘n Shake and Burrito Bowl close early most days, leaving few options for students. A lot of the time, lines can be so long that students feel inclined to go off campus, eat late or not eat at all.

As a freshman, I have gotten used to DSU, Subway, Hilltopper Hall and the restaurants in the first year village being the only restaurants available to students. While there are many options, many of them are very similar. Having the options like Moe’s and Panda Express, I am excited to have a bit more flexibility and choice.

The construction delays coupled with the loss of the food court in Garrett Conference Center have left students desperately wanting more. Each time the opening date for the Commons was pushed back, the anticipation only increased. Students have become more dissatisfied with current options.

While the Commons will cut down on wait times and line length at all dining options, the building should clear up other traffic in areas such as DSU, too. With the absence of another space, DSU is always filled with students doing homework. The Commons should create more space for more people to enjoy what WKU’s campus has to offer.

Everyone seems to be excited for the Commons to open. It will most likely be difficult to eat there for the rest of the semester due to the buzz of all curious students, but that doesn’t dampen the excitement. 

Having these new, indoor dining options open throughout the day will be a huge help to students. The variety of foods that will be available will bring a refreshed feeling to on-campus dining that has been sorely missing.

Commentary writer Price Wilborn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pricewilborn.