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Walk this way: Plaza to open in August

Concerts, popsicles and a mist fountain are coming to a plaza near you.

By Aug. 14, two weeks before the start of the fall semester, the new West Campus student plaza will be complete and students will be able to enjoy all these amenities--and get to the Bryan Center more quickly.

"The plaza will be ready, on time and on budget," said Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, who has overseen the project from the start.

Moneta said he hopes that instead of merely traversing and tabling, students will make the plaza the epicenter of quadrangle life. But several students have said its main function will be the same as its predecessor's--a walkway.

"It won't affect my life," junior Shi-Fan Yang said. "I'm probably just going to use it to get to the BC, buy food and bring it back to my dorm."

The plaza has been designed to encourage students like Yang to dine in an outdoor social setting.

Doors have been cut into the back of the Great Hall, leading to a patio that spans the back side of the West Union building. A large canopy will hang over tables and chairs, allowing diners to enjoy a vista of the plaza while eating.

"The [patio] is a very nice feature," said Tony Bumphus, associate director of student activities and facilities. "It's something extra that allows people to take their food out onto the plaza."

Four permanent food carts will be featured on the plaza itself, serving a variety of food, Bumphus said.

Chartwells, a new University food service provider, is in charge of selecting these four vendors, but Bumphus said Pauly Dogs has been chosen as one and LocoPops-a local popsicle vendor-is likely to be another.

The plaza will also create two new performance spaces, Moneta said. A raised, grass-covered platform designed for concerts and performances is at the center of the plaza. This space will be christened homecoming weekend Sept. 30 with the appearance of a "big-name band," Bumphus said.

During the first six weeks of the fall semester, Duke University Union will be in charge of scheduling events on the plaza every day in an effort to get students to embrace it and employ its full capabilities.

"[The Union] wants to get as many students out there, to buy into the idea," said senior Alex Apple, president of the Union. "We want it to be the place to go."

These efforts will likely be necessary given the current student sentiment about the plaza. Students have expressed frustration regarding the lack of a walkway this past year.

"I'll finally be able to get to the Bryan Center," senior Weston Ijames said.

Moneta noted the recent success of Bostock Library and the von der Heyden Pavilion, both of which were completed this past year and have become campus "hot spots." He said he hopes the plaza will join these ranks but was careful not to set the bar too high.

"This is a great gathering space at a University with lots of great gathering spaces," he said. "Duke has done a masterful job unveiling new facilities--hopefully the plaza will be another one of those facilities."

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