Graduates ensure ‘Sugar Shack’ makes comeback

 By Whitney Jones, News Editor

With the help of two senior classes, plans are rolling to rebuild a beloved Union University landmark that was flattened after the devastating 2008 tornado.

The Sugar Shack is coming back.

When the men’s and women’s dorms were more separate from each other before the tornado destroyed them, the Sugar Shack was the one place that was always open for friends, and perhaps significant others, to meet.

The old shack was an open pavilion between the men’s and women’s dorms that was held dear not only by former students but also by faculty and staff.

“It was an old and beloved place filled with carpenter bees,” said Dr. Kimberly Thornbury, vice president for student services and dean of students.

The senior classes of 2009 and 2011 joined efforts to restore the campus’s missing piece by giving the Sugar Shack as their senior gift.

At first, the class of 2009 tried to raise additional funds from alumni to build the Sugar Shack, since all senior gifts must be self-sustaining, which means the gift must be fully paid for by the class.

But Andrew Courtner, senior class president of 2009, said they were not able to raise enough funds to build the new structure according to plan.

However, the class of 2011 — the last group who was here during the devastating 2008 tornado — decided last year to join forces with the 2009 graduates to bring back one of their favorite hang-out spots.

Courtner, who now works as the department of continuing studies program coordinator at Union’s Hendersonville campus, said although Barefoots Joe opened after the tornado and provided a place for all friends to meet, no matter their gender, it was not open at all hours like the outdoor Sugar Shack had been.

“(My class) wanted to bring something back to the campus that reminded us of our four years at Union University but also provided a place for students now to have a place to gather and hang out,” he said.

The official name of the future pavilion has yet to be decided, but Bryan Carrier, assistant dean of students, said he believed students would carry on the tradition and call the new structure the “Sugar Shack” despite what the administration chooses to name it.

The shack’s future location will be near the outdoor volleyball and basketball courts near the Blasingame and Penick academic complexes. Future plans for this area also include tennis courts.

Carrier said that location was chosen by administration because it is a main thoroughfare, especially for students walking from the Heritage dorms, and it has already become a gathering place for some students this semester.

“If you look, already this year the volleyball court is a hopping place,” Carrier said.

Thornbury said the new Sugar Shack is slated to have a gas grill, a sound system for playing music and a water station so students can wash their feet after playing sand volleyball.

While the old Sugar Shack’s appearance could have been described as “well-loved,”    the new pavilion has been designed to look like the other recent additions to Union’s campus: classical and brick.

Ultimately, the Sugar Shack will be a place for students to spend time with friends, Carrier said. Plus, it will be one of the few places students will not have to worry about open dorm hours.

“The desire is to have that (pavilion) similar to the new Barefoots patio, an outdoor gathering place that is public, that is a place to see and be seen,” he said.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.