Friday’s ceremony to celebrate the new Student Union at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was standing room only, the first of many events for Opening Weekend as the fall semester gets rolling.

“I’m very proud and pleased with this beautiful new building, which really serves as a kind of living room for the university,” said UL-Lafayette President Joseph Savoie. “Since the day it’s opened, it’s been packed, and that’s exactly what we wanted. With the new dormitories on both sides feeding into it, it really is a community center, and it’s turned out to be everything we hoped it would.”

The community was invited to explore the newly renovated and expanded union, also known as “The U.”

“It is beyond expectations,” said Raymond “Coach” Blanco, a former assistant football coach, former vice president for student affairs and husband of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, who was also in attendance. “It’s something we’ve been fretting over for almost 50 years, and it was worth all the pain and waiting. The students had to pay for it, and this is their building.”

The new union was funded through student fees approved by the UL-Lafayette student bodies of 2003 and 2005.

Opening Weekend continued Friday evening with a dinner reception and the dedication of the Student Union’s forum room to Helma B. Constantine, a civil rights activist who led the efforts to desegregate UL-Lafayette.

At 9 a.m. Saturday, a dedication ceremony will take place in the newly renovated Quadrangle, a renovation that is part of the master plan that students approved in 2012.

After that ceremony, the party will move to the Louisiana Welcome Wall in front of Martin Hall for the unveiling of a plaque to memorialize the wall as a gift from the classes of 2012, 2013 and 2014.