For its distinct skyline, Kansas University relies on Fraser Hall and the Campanile. For national attention, action at Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium provide streams of highlight film.
But for day-in, day-out service to students, no building on campus compares to the Kansas Union on Jayhawk Boulevard.
"The major features that the union provides are services, facilities and programs," said Jim Long, union director. "We look at ourself not just as a building, but as an organization and a program."
The union's utilization statistics also sound as if the building doubled as Grand Central Station in its prime. Long said he and his staff are amazed at how busy they are. During the 1989-90 school year, he said union personnel answered 400,000 information requests, the U.S. Postal Service counter served 90,000 customers, more than 24,000 people attended shows in the gallery and 6,000 reservations were requested for its meeting rooms.
AS THE statistics show, the union can be many things to many people.
"We provide services and conveniences aimed at meeting the daily needs of this community," Long said. "We look to provide, at the same time, a meaningful out-of-class experience and opportunities. So we really feel that we are a very necessary . . . part of the educational program at the university."
The union's services span six floors in the structure, which had its cornerstone set in 1925 as a memorial to the 129 students and alumni who died in World War I.
The first floor offers students a place to bowl, play video games or shoot a game of pool. This level can be entered from the Mississippi Street side by an outside door or a tunnel that goes under the street and provides access to either the Spencer Museum of Art or the parking lot southeast of Memorial Stadium.
The KU Bookstore and Oread Book Shop dominate the second floor. The bookstore offers textbooks, of course, while the Oread Book Shop contains a wide selection of books from best sellers to "how to" books. Also featured at the KU Bookstore is a large inventory of school supplies, toiletry items and Jayhawk mementos, including T-shirts, decals for cars and stuffed animals.
FOOD IS the main attraction on the third floor. Customers can choose from a delicatessen, cafeteria or sit-down restaurant, all of which prove popular during the lunch hour. Nine alcoves are available on this floor where small student groups can eat and have informal meetings.
The fourth floor probably gets the heaviest traffic because of its two entrances off Jayhawk Boulevard and numerous features. The floor has a candy counter, the postal booth, a branch of Maupintour Travel Service, a bank, the two galleries, the Student Union Activities office where tickets for SUA events are sold and the traditions room, which has a television.
On the north side of the fourth floor are offices for various student groups, such as the Student Senate, the Black Student Union, the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Assn. and the Jayhawker Yearbook, among others.
The floor also houses the union's reservations and business office, banking services, Alderson Auditorium, a copy center, the university information center and a pair of conference rooms.
A SERIES of conference rooms are located on levels five and six of the union. These rooms can be reserved by campus and off-campus organizations for speeches and meetings. The open ballroom on level five is the largest meeting place, with an average of 700 chairs set up for big lectures and forums. Woodruff Auditorium, also on level five, has a seating capacity of 500.
Other conference rooms on the fifth floor are the Big Eight, Jayhawk, Regionalist, Oread and International, along with three parlors.
The sixth level has seven conference rooms: Kansas, Watkins, Curry, English, Centennial, Walnut and Pine. The Kansas Room is the largest, with a capacity of 200 people.
Changes and improvements are in store for the union, which is the oldest in the Big Eight Conference. Renovation work that's scheduled to start next spring will involve a partial refurbishing of level four, including the outside plaza area on Jayhawk Boulevard and the eating area outside level three. Long said the inside work will increase capacity and improve air circulation, lighting, safety and handicap accessibility.
THE PROJECT should take from 12 to 18 months to complete, he said, and should allow the union to remain a magnet for a great percentage of the student population.
"We try to meet the students' needs . . . for them to be as successful as they can be here at the university," Long said.