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.
Construction of The University Center Phase I began in July 1984 and was completed in July of 1986. The 38,000 square-foot facility 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 and serves as the venue for coffeehouse music performances and open mic nights, among other activities.
The UC grew right along with the University and began building a Phase II expansion in 1993. In 1996, the UC opened a 100,000 square-foot addition. The Student Government Association (SGA) played an important role in the design of the expansion, which included space for a bookstore, student activities complex, the Retama auditorium (a 350 seat, tiered-style theater), several more meeting rooms, and the offices of Student Life, Career Services, Alumni Programs, Orientation Programs, and a copy center. The expansion also enabled renovations for the Roost, adding the Counseling Center, the Tomas Rivera Center and a Special Events Office.
Amid the pressures of UTSA's extremely rapid growth and huge space deficit, in 2003 the student body passed a referendum to increase the UC fee to support the another UC expansion. Completed in 2008, this phase of the UC includes a ballroom capable of holding up to 900 for lecture-style programs, additional meeting rooms, a new gameroom, lounge space, and more space for the 230+ student organizations at UTSA.
Renovations of other UC buildings in 2008 included safety upgrades to bring the building up to code and new technology such as wireless Internet and lcd projectors in every meeting room. The completion of the building in 2008 also freed up space to bring much needed services that continue to benefit the university community including Frost Bank, the Campus Technology Store, Rios Golden Cut Salons and The UPS Store.
Today the University Center (comprised of UC North and UC South buildings) continues to be a vibrant hub of campus activity. In the coming years, the UC will begin benchmarking, researching, and planning for UC West—a fourth building currently on the UTSA Master Plan. This future expansion will allow the UC to broaden the services and resources it provides to UTSA students and the campus community.