In 1969, the Texas Legislature created The University of Texas at San Antonio as a component of the University of Texas System. The master plan, approved in 1970, was developed for a campus of 30,000 students and did not include a student union. By 1979, enrollment at the University topped 9,000 and activities and events were scattered around the campus. A student referendum in November 1979 approved the establishment of a student union organization which would offer co-curricular activity space for the University's students. The student union was pictured as a gathering place for the university community and the focal point for programs, meetings, dining, and relaxation for students, faculty, staff and university guests.
The economic climate of the early '80s made formulating a project-planning budget difficult. The project consultants recognized that the scope of desired facilities would exceed initial funding and decided a multi-phased building plan would best serve the needs of the university by allowing the most vital facilities to be constructed first. In fall 1982, a total project budget of $5 million was established.
The feasibility study completed in early 1983 recommended construction of a 38,000 square foot building to be known as the University Center. Construction of Phase I began in July 1984. Opening in July 1986, the UC featured a main lounge, several meeting rooms, a multi-purpose room and banquet hall, a student activity complex, a recreation room (the Roost), and food services. The main lounge, known as the Ski Lodge, was designed as and remains the living room of the UC. The meeting rooms are used primarily by student organizations for various meetings and events.