Located on Cougar Walk, the Cougars’ Den Cafe has been undergoing renovations since June. It is set to reopen next semester with new kitchen equipment, furniture and service lines.
As students eagerly anticipate the new changes (and a wider selection of food to choose from), APU’s facilities management team is working diligently to ensure the Den has a redefined look and experience.
“We don’t have a hard completion date yet,” said Tom Hunt, associate vice president of facilities management. “We just finished getting all our permits from the city, from the planning department, the building department, the county fire department and health.”
The contractor, Doug Giles Construction, anticipates that the work will take eight weeks after all the required permits have been received.
“It will definitely be open by next semester…[hopefully] before Christmas,” Hunt said.
In addition to new kitchen equipment, the Den is also getting new cabinetry, three new service lines, a separate area for beverages, more seating, a new floor, a redesigned ceiling and a fresh menu with more options.
“A lot of stuff was just outdated,” Hunt said. Other features, such as restrooms, are being redesigned to be accessible to students with disabilities, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“To accommodate different size stall configurations and number of fixtures, we are basically swapping the restrooms,” Hunt said. “The men’s restroom is going to become the women’s and the women’s is going to become the men’s.”
The contractors also plan to provide new floors and ceilings, redo the electrical wiring and change the restroom entrances.
“[Before], as the door would open, you would see people in the restroom; there was no visual blockage,” Hunt said. “[We’ve] made it so that you don’t look in the restroom and still see people.”
Additionally, the Den will lose the door to the Student Post Office. The door was rarely used, according to Hunt.
All new plumbing was installed so the concrete floor had to be saw-cut to allow this. Once the new floor tile goes in, this won’t be seen through.
“There’s a possibility of a follow-on project next summer which [would] involve some of these other spaces [like] The Clause office and the SGA office,” Hunt said. “If a relocation of those is possible, we would expand the Cougars’ Den, and we would relocate the restrooms to be accessible off of Cougar Walk. [This is] so the restroom would be available to people outside as well, which is a common complaint we’ve heard.”
The renovations are being funded by University Services.
“It’s currently contracted for $450,000, but it is subject to change,” Hunt said. He expects to get both a final contract, price figure and completion date from the contractor soon.
Many students at APU have felt the impact of the renovations at the Cougars’ Den.
“I’m pretty bummed out that the Den is closed, to be honest,” said Blake Huxell, a sophomore commercial music major on the business track. “I used to get pizza there a couple times a week. I’m really looking forward to it opening back up soon.”
The Cougars’ Den isn’t the only dining place on East Campus that is experiencing some change. A few doors down, Mexicali Grill has also undergone some development. Since the Den has closed, those employees have relocated to Mexicali and are primarily working during the newly added late shifts.
“We are quite overloaded with staff,” Sam L’anteigne, junior theology and economics major and second year Mexicali employee said. “That has had the effect of putting many of us veterans into managerial positions, mentoring the new Den staff and training each one.”
Mexicali is now open until 12 a.m. from Sunday through Thursday, and until 7 p.m. on Fridays. In previous semesters, Mexicali closed at 8 p.m Monday through Thursday, 7.p.m. on Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday.
“I love that it’s open late,” freshman Christian ministries major Garrett Davis said. “I can go get a quesadilla or burrito whenever I want now. The other night, I went after 11 p.m. and got nachos.”
Mexicali’s official hours are Monday to Thursday, 8 a.m to 12 a.m., Fridays, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays, 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. It is closed on Saturdays.