When one refers to a student union, more often than not they are referring to a building on college campus that is devoted to student activities. A place that can be considered the center of a college’s universe, so to speak. For Minnesota State University Moorhead, the Comstock Memorial Union is just that place.
The history of the Comstock Memorial Union, or CMU as Dragons call it, can easily be traced back through five decades. However, the idea of a place where students and faculty could come together to work and play goes back just a little bit further.
In the mid-1950s, students began raising money in an effort to build a space that would become one of the most important places on campus. It wasn’t until 1961, though, that students gained approval from the state to charge students $5.00 per quarter to pay for the construction of the building, even though construction of the building would not begin until five years later, after many of the students paying for it had graduated.
When construction was finally complete, and the Union was opened to the public in April of 1967, many students did not know the services that were provided to them in this new building. During the first meeting of the Student Union Board, the description of the new facilities stated that the air conditioned building would have three levels. The first level would consist of four bowling alley lanes, a game room, a fireplace and patio, and a snack bar with seating for over 200 people. The main floor area would be home to a lounge, general office areas, and conference dining rooms. The top level would have a ballroom, and would house office areas for the many different activities and departments.
The CMU has undergone many changes over the past 50 years. The first of these changes was a facelift that began in April 1971, was completed in January 1972, and expanded parking, the snack bar, and even added a coffee house. The most recent renovation, a 34,000 square foot remodel and 3,400 square foot addition to the existing building, began May 2015 and opened to the MSUM campus on October 25, 2016. This renovation brought more light into the building with more windows being added to the addition, as well as a several new dining options in the former Union Café.
Throughout the past five decades of existence, the CMU has been home to many activities, departments, and events. However, it wasn’t just a building that the students of Moorhead State University wanted as the heart of their university, it was the countless hours of planning, the many dollars spent, and the big ideas of a few students that wanted to have a central place of their own to work and play with their peers that made the Comstock Memorial Union a reality. Happy 50th Anniversary, CMU, here’s to many, many more years.