The Great Hall is getting a facelift.
Covenant’s historied cafeteria will undergo a second round of renovations this summer, beginning the Monday after graduation. The college is hiring teams to make aesthetic improvements to the enormous room, formerly the grand ballroom of the Lookout Mountain Hotel, and upgrades to the kitchen in what will be Phase 2 of renovations to the Great Hall.
“We will be upgrading the ovens, dishwasher, and other equipment that has worn out over time,” said Dan Wykoff, Covenant’s Chief Financial Officer. “Other renovations include refreshing the carpet, furniture, food displays, and overall aesthetic, and improving traffic flow, particularly around the dish return and the drink stations.”
Part of the current problem is congestion in the food line areas, says Campus Architect David Northcutt, who described how the wall behind the salad bar is to be reduced to about five feet tall and the sliding doors into the hot foods area are to be removed.
Northcutt says that these improvements will make the Great Hall “feel more open and inviting.” In addition to the structural changes, the hot foods area will also be retiled and the counters remodeled. “Our hope is that in the fall when you walk in, it will be a nice, refreshed space and an improvement to the overall dining experience,” says Northcutt.
These improvements will complement those made last summer—Phase 1—to the drink, dessert, and sandwich areas.
The project will require quite a bit of logistical footwork because of several summer camps that take place on campus over the summer break, which bring hundreds of hungry mouths through the room three times a day. Construction crews will have a three-week window between graduation and the first camp to start making the improvements, ensure that the kitchen is online, and create a temporary serving area for campers to use.
“Just coordinating that is a challenge,” says Northcutt. “Keeping the kitchen in operation, campers fed, and the dish room working while still doing construction is a big challenge.” Northcutt said the goal is to complete the project by the time students return in the fall.
Although the Great Hall improvements are under a different contract than the larger Carter Hall project, the same construction company, Brasfield & Gorrie, has been contracted for the work.
“Because there is so much coordination between the work they’re doing—working on top of the roof and having teams here—it just made sense to have Brasfield & Gorrie do it,” says Northcutt.
Covenant has also been coordinating with Chartwells throughout the design and implementation process. Northcutt describes how “they are experts in how you cook the food, how you present the food, warmers, equipment,” while the college administration is more adept at planning the construction side of the project. In the end, he says, the two different aspects “have to marry.”
The total cost of the project, including Phase 1 last summer, is $2.5 million. “This was fully funded through our partnership with Chartwells,” Wykoff explains. “We appreciate them investing back into the student dining experience here at Covenant College.”
Administration has received positive feedback so far from students about the Phase 1 improvements, according to Wykoff. College administration is confident that Phase 2 will produce similar positive responses.