The Original Florida Union Building
The Florida Union building was opened in 1936. The original building and its two additions were constructed without the usage of state funds. William Jennings Bryan was active in raising funds for the original building, and the student body strongly supported the creation of a student fee to provide resources for the project. In addition, Federal funds (PWA) and other gifts were used to fund the original building and the two additions. The original Florida Union is now Dauer Hall.
J. Wayne Reitz Union Building
Planning for the new union began in March, 1948. The project was approved in May, 1962, with ground breaking on May 9, 1964. The building was completed and opened on May 1, 1967.
The building, which originally included the Constans Theater, was 267,070 square feet in size, and the total cost of the project was $5,710,422 ($22.84 per square foot). Construction cost was $4,481,600 ($17.91 per square foot). The Constans Theater was later designated an Education and General building, and is no longer operated by the Union. The only part of the Constans now used by the Union is the box office area.
The architects for the project were Barrett, Daffin and Bishop, of Tallahassee, Florida, and Moore and May, of Gainesville, Florida.
Financing of this project was accomplished by a statewide revenue certificate program for higher education generated and supported by fees of students of all state institutions of Florida. The financial start was in October 1951, when the student body voted a small fee to be set aside for the construction of this facility. Subsequent actions by the student body, the University administration, the Board of Control (now the Board of Regents), and the State Board of Education made the building possible. There were no tax funds used in the construction or furnishings of this building.
At the request of the student body, the building was named by the Board of Regents in honor of Dr. J. Wayne Reitz, President of the University of Florida from 1955 to 1967. Prior to his service as President of the University, he served the University as Professor of Agricultural Economics (1934-44), and Provost of Agriculture (1949-55).
There have been many additions and renovations to the building over the years, including the following: In 1975 an unfinished area in the basement was converted to meeting rooms, the Orange and Brew was built in what had been a storage room beneath the colonnade, and in 1984 an outdoor terrace was added to the Brew. In 1991 meeting rooms were constructed above the colonnade, a mini-mall was added to the south terrace area, and an "atrium" addition was constructed on the west side of the building to expand the Career Resource Center. In 1992 a similar "atrium" was added to expand the Game Room. The Cafeteria/Snack Bar was converted to a Food Court, and opened in August, 1995.
As part of the same project, a 17,000 square foot addition was built for the Career Resource Center. The third phase of the 1995 project constructed the relocation of the Arts and Crafts Center to the basement, the construction of a new hotel guest desk at the west entrance of the ground floor, the construction of a new stairway and entrance to the ground floor from the North Lawn and a substantial renovation to the ground floor to create spaces for four new retail tenants. The third phase was completed in the Fall of 1998.
In Fall of 2002 the Grand Ballroom was opened. This two story 14,000 square foot facility, built atop the CRC, is the largest ballroom in North Central Florida and will seat 800 for a banquet meal.
The UF Bookstore, Welcome Center, and parking garage complex was built adjacent to the Reitz Union and opened in Summer of 2003. The Food Court was expanded at the same time to create a connection point between facilities. The combined Reitz Union - Bookstore/Welcome Center complex currently encompasses over 513,000 square feet of space.
The Rion Ballroom was named in honor of William E. Rion, Director of the Florida Union/J. Wayne Reitz Union from 1948 to 1986. Prior to his service as Director, he served the University and the Union as a student assistant (1942-45), and as an Assistant Director (1945-48).
The Bryan Lounge (Lounge 123) was named in honor of William Jennings Bryan, the great statesman and orator, for his tireless efforts in the raising of funds in 1923 for a religious activities center at the University. Such a building was never constructed, the funds raised were later utilized to build the Florida Union.
The Johnson Lounge (Lounge 121) was named in honor of John Evander Johnson, Acting Director of the Florida Union from 1942 to 1943. Prior to his service as Acting Director, he served the University as Professor of Bible and Secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association.
The Billy Matthews Lounge (Lounge 122) was named in honor of Billy Matthews, Acting Director of the Florida Union from 1936 to 1948. Billy Matthews graduated from Florida in the Class of 1929, having served the student body as its President and Chancellor of the Honor Court, among many other accomplishments. He was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1952 from the Eighth District of Florida, and served for fourteen years until 1967. He has been a longtime friend and outstanding contributor to the University and Alachua County communities.