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New EMU ready to shine as UO hosts Olympic trials

The University of Oregon plans an October 2016 grand opening for the newly remodeled Erb Memorial Union, commonly known as the "E-M-U". (SBG Photo)

EUGENE, Ore. -- Out with the old - some of it, at least - and in with the new.

The Erb Memorial Union on the UO campus first opened its doors in 1950, and its latest upgrade is almost complete. The project has been in the works for the last twelve years.

"And then about three and a half years ago we had the plans right," says EMU director Laurie Woodward. "We tore down the 70's wing of the building and started construction and have been going up ever since."

Three and a half years later, Woodward says the project is about 95% complete. All that's left is all the little finishing touches.

"It's mind-numbing," she says. "It's a list of about a thousand things a day. And it's great fun to see it get right."

Inside, parts of the new EMU are almost unrecognizable from its old self. But in the main hall, the new building has been built around the 1950's walls to preserve the history of the place.

According to Woodward, the new design is very much an improvement.

"The old building was energy-inefficient this building is very energy-inefficient," she says. "You couldn't find anything, there were lots of nooks and corners and crevices."

The new EMU is applying for a LEED Platinum rating.

A new, versatile theater has been added for screening films or hosting lectures, and plenty of space has been added to accommodate offices for student groups.

Zoe Raiter works at the EMU, and she is proud of the upgrade.

"People get really jealous of me sometimes when I tell them that I work at the EMU," she says. "I think this represents the UO really well. Not only because it's really inclusive it also is really sustainable."

Even though the building isn't finished yet, Woodward says the Olympic trials are a great chance to show it off.

"We have air conditioning we have places to sit, we have food, " she says. "This is the place where we hope people will take a break."

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