An $18 million dining facility for Montana State University? To put that in perspective, as one friend pointed out on Facebook, that is nearly the entire amount of money that is brought in by the state of Montana's 6-mill levy which is on the ballot this November.

Here's the story from the MSU News Service:  

BOZEMAN –More than 1,000 people piled their plates high with a smorgasbord of culinary offerings during the two-hour grand opening of Montana State University’s newest dining facility earlier this week.

The Rendezvous Dining Pavilion, an $18.2 million facility that seats 830 people in its 30,000 square-foot space, opened its doors from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday with a free all-you can-eat lunch for anyone who attended the celebration.

Dining alongside MSU students, staff and faculty were community members that included MSU alumni, public servants, food suppliers, project designers and builders and others looking to enjoy the locally sourced made-from-scratch meals served at the dining hall’s eight stations.

“What you see here will allow friends, students and staff to establish relationships and build memories forever,” said Tom Stump, associate vice-president of MSU Auxiliary Services, during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

 Stump recognized the many people who contributed to Rendezvous’ creation from inception to design to construction to menu selection to sustainability initiatives, as well as others who lent their expertise and talents to the project, which he noted came in on time and under budget. 

Something MSU Women’s Basketball Coach Tricia Binford said to Stump 10 years ago about MSU’s dining and residence halls not being “up to par” compared to other colleges planted the seed in his mind for the need for new and updated dining facilities, Stump said. Then, six years ago when MSU President Waded Cruzado echoed Binford’s thoughts asking what could be done to make the facilities better, Stump and his team took up the charge. 

“I remember distinctly being in the president’s conference room and sharing our vision of what we could do with our dining halls,” Stump said. “From that point on, President Cruzado has been very excited and very supportive of what we have attempted to accomplish here, which culminates about seven years of work.”

Taylor Blossom, president of the Associated Students of Montana State University, spoke of the importance of dining halls as a gathering place, saying they play a larger role than just a place to eat, particularly during freshman year when students are trying to connect with others.

“Dining halls really are where you build community,” Blossom said. “That’s where you go to build your college family.”

Having watched the construction of “this beautiful, state-of-the-art building” from her office window beginning with its groundbreaking in October 2016, Cruzado thanked Stump and other project leaders for their vision and hard work; the Montana University System Board of Regents and Clay Christian, Commissioner of Higher Education for their support and endorsement of the project; and “everybody who had anything to do with the design, the concept and construction” of the dining hall.

Rendezvous, she said, symbolizes the strength of the Bobcat family and “surely has to be one of the most beautiful new buildings in our state,” with its elegant design and the landscape architecture that surrounds it. 

“Every aspect of this building radiates quality, light, life, energy and a true commitment to the environment and to the people of the state of Montana,” she said.

Cruzado lauded MSU’s Culinary Services’ team for their passion for their craft that is evident in the way they prepare food every day.

“To have a beautiful building is one thing, but to have people who really care about our students, our faculty, our staff and our alumni is a different thing,” Cruzado said. “Our team in Culinary Services understands they are a key component of not only attracting students but also keeping them here and helping them graduate on time.”

She also thanked MSU’s students for leading the charge toward sustainability and healthful, locally sourced food.

Just before the ribbon was cut to welcome the crowd into Rendezvous, Rich Huffman, director of MSU Culinary Services, described the dining pavilion’s eight stations: De la Mesa specializes in Mexican cuisine and features a tortilla press and rotating tortilla grill; the 89’er Diner, named after the year Montana became a state, offers smash burgers, fries and milkshakes; XO, a wok and pho station, features both traditional and regional foods of Asia and the Middle East; a European-style bakery café called One Eleven, named for MSU’s longitude, offers espresso, pastries and crepes and a walk-up retail window; Forge 406 incorporates a smoker and open-flame rotisserie to prepare locally sourced meats; Rosso features a stone-fired pizza oven and build-your-own-pasta dish Italian station; Etcetera features soups, salads and sandwiches; and Razz serves smoothies and fresh fruit.

Huffman also mentioned the waffle irons in the shape of a bobcat head and a machine that makes fresh peanut butter on demand.

As evidence of the facility’s innovative practices, Huffman pointed out that the facility will serve made-from-scratch cooking using local ingredients; its ambiance; it features sports and ski lounges; a high-definition projector with a 20-foot screen will be used for game days and special events; and the reusable cup program at One Eleven, where no disposable cups and no plastic straws will be offered.

In addition to student meal plans, guests are welcome to purchase a meal or a meal plan at Rendezvous Dining Pavilion. Meals range in price from $8 to $11, and off-campus meal plans are available in block amounts of 25 for as little as $7 per meal. More information is available at montana.edu/culinaryservices/residence_dining_commons/index.html and montana.edu/culinaryservices/residence_dining_commons/meal_plans/commuter_meal_plans.html.