New Rathskeller, Student Activity Center open for use on Coral Gables campus

Posted Sept. 18, 2013


The new Student Activities Center (SAC) is now open and being used by students at the University of Miami.

The center, built by Fort Lauderdale-based Moss & Associates and designed by Arquitectonica, is a three-floor building that faces the Lake Osceola.

Known by students as the “new Rat,” the SAC includes a study lounge, which is open 24 hours a day seven days a week, offices for student organizations such as Student Government, and a ballroom that can hold up to 1,000 people.

The Students Activity Center (Photo by Valeria Viera).

The Students Activity Center (Photo by Valeria Viera).

As if this wasn’t enough, it also offers places to eat and drink, as well as a bar in the exterior part of the building. It is the new home of the offices of The Miami Hurricane, Distraction magazine and the Ibis yearbook.

“The old Starbucks now even feels so lonely and boring with this new bigger one,” exclaimed Sofia Ortega, undergraduate student majoring in broadcast journalism at UM.

This is because of the new Starbucks on the first floor of this enormous building.

UM now has two Starbucks on campus.

Apart from a coffee place, the new SAC also offers a yogurt spot, in which people gather to have a quick, fat-free cold snack for these hot days of late summer and early fall.

“The Student Center Complex (SCC), consisting of the new Student Activities Center (SAC), a renovated University Center (UC), and the new UC Patio, was created by an extraordinary partnership — a gracious $20 million gift from Tracey and Bruce Berkowitz and our students’ financial commitment,” declared Dr. Patricia A. Whitely, who has been vice president for Student Affairs at the University of Miami since 1997.

After a referendum was approved seven years ago, undergraduate, graduate and law students voted in favor of the construction of the new building.

With the help of fees from these students, plus $25 million from donors to the Momentum 2 campaign and the $20 million donation from the Fairholme Foundation, the $46.5 million center was built and finished to be used by fall of 2013.

“We expect that the Student Activities Center will transform student life on campus,” said Whitely. “its location along Lake Osceola adds immeasurably to the beauty of our campus, and the impressive facilities, programs and dining opportunities are certain to make the Student Activities Center a prime hub of student life beyond the classroom.”

The new SAC faces Lake Osceola (Photo by Valeria Viera).

The new SAC faces Lake Osceola (Photo by Valeria Viera).

And as we see, the SAC is what has gotten the attention from all students in campus these first days of classes.

The old “Rat” will be missed. It has served since 1972 as the meeting place for faculty, students and visitors: a place to hang out, relax, and have some fun.

But the new location for is much bigger, spacious and has a view that will not be forgotten. It is also not only a restaurant, but includes other facilities.

On the first floor, visitors find public areas and services that you can use as a 24-hour study space seven days per week, Law School student organizations and, of course, that new two-story Rathskeller.

On the second floor, it offers the student organizations, the Graduate Student Association, Media Center for The Miami Hurricane, the Ibis and Distraction, and student affairs offices.

The 9,971 square foot ballroom with pre-function area and five meeting rooms dominate the third floor. There is also a balcony that overlooks the Lake Osceola and the entire Student Center Complex.

The Rathskeller (Photo by Valeria Viera).

The Rathskeller (Photo by Valeria Viera).

“The new student activities center in conjunction with the University Center, patio, and Rock all make for a one of a kind student center. The building is something we’ve waited many years for and are so excited to see finally come to fruition” said Student Government President Bhumi Patel, adding that she is “incredibly excited to be working and living out of the building and happy to see so many students calling it their home away from home as well.”

Galie Darwich, producer of UMTV’s show UNIMIAMI, said it is going to be hard to forget the original Rat.

“The new Rat will never replace the old one,” Darwich said.

There are a lot of different opinions coming mostly from the new freshman arriving on campus.

“It’s just a great place to hang out during the week and during the weekends, the environment is very friendly, full of positive energy inside and out,” business major Ximena Lagoa commented during a visit.

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) also seems to be pleased with the new building.

GSA Vice President Edwing Medina, originally from Caracas, Venezuela, said the facility has a home feel to it.

“The new Student Activities Center returns a sense of home-away-from-home to UM’s 3,000+ graduate students. The Graduate Student Association is grateful to President Shalala, the Berkowitz family, Dr. Pat Whitely, and everyone else who helped fortify our Canes’ pride through this new student nexus at UM.”

The new SAC may offer GSA a new tool to achieve its goals.

Another view from the new SAC (Photo by Valeria Viera).

Another view from the new SAC (Photo by Valeria Viera).

“I believe the building enables Student Activities, student organizations, and campus life to join together to create amazing things for UM students. This gorgeous building should motivate us all to plan creative, fun, and thought provoking events for out community,” said Kathy Andrade, assistant director of Student Activities & Student Organizations.

The official closing of the Rat was last semester on April 29.  There were a variety of activities that were done by students before this happened.

The center will have its formal dedication on Nov. 7.

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