When Place Riel opened in 1979, it was the fulfillment of a promise made over a decade earlier—a promise to build a student centre to meet the social, cultural and recreational needs of the rapidly expanding student body. ‘Rapidly expanding’ was an understatement. The Memorial Union Building (MUB), the university’s original command central for student services and activities, was constructed in 1955. By 1965, the student population had more than tripled, from 2,670 to 8,830, and the MUB no longer could meet its needs.
In 1966, the first wave of baby boom students voted to add a $12 annual levy to their tuition to help fund construction of a new student centre, even though they knew it wouldn’t be built during their time on campus. In 1974, students voted to increase the levy to $20.
Through these student fees, the U of S Students’ Union (USSU) was able to contribute over $2.2 million to the $5.79 million building project. Construction began in 1976. Phase one was the Place Riel Theatre in the Arts Building (now Neatby-Timlin Theatre), phase two was the iconic ‘terminus building’ (the actual Place Riel building) and phase three was renovation of the MUB.
Described as “part town hall and part living room,” the new Place Riel building offered a campus store, games area, lounge space, phones, bank, waiting area for buses, meeting rooms and office space for the Students’ Union, Place Riel Society, Alumni Association, the Sheaf and other services. By supporting the annual levy, students today ensure Place Riel will continue to provide a place for students into the future.