Spare Some Time? Strike up a Game

By Wendy Lopez

During a fall school day, the only sound that fills the Union Underground is music chosen by a streaming application. During the summer, the music is drowned out by the sounds of clattering bowling pins and the hum of air-hockey tables.

“During the long semesters we typically are a bit slower during the week,” Kevin Ray, senior retail manager of the Underground, said. “And that has a lot to do with the fact that students are in class, studying, and doing things during the day, during the week, and even at night during the week. The weekends are usually the time where you can kind of let loose and have fun.”

Ray said the Underground primarily serves university students and members but is open to the public year-round. Now with schools out for the summer, people come in regularly.

“They increase slightly in the summer,” Ray said about sales, “because we have more business, more consistent business throughout the day and throughout the week during the summer.”

Ray said that while the hours are shortened during the summer, staffing remains about the same with only three non-student employees and the rest being student workers and supervisors that run the space daily.

Desi Pham, an International Relations graduate, said she learned about the Underground at freshmen orientation when the Union and the university provide a night of free games to incoming and transfer students. Songthan Lam, a Math senior, said she didn’t know about it then, but instead found it two years ago.

“I was in this group, just trying it out and they just came here as an end of the year celebration,” Lam said.

And while Ray said he thinks of the Underground as a place of recreation, he said during the year students come down and study. Jinwook Kim, a Computer Science graduate, said this was how he learned about the place.

“I first discovered it when someone asked me to study in the games room,” Kim said. “It’s actually one of my favorite places to study because it has a moderate temperature more to my liking and lots of outlets. I studied there for like two years.”

Ray said following the financial crisis in 2008, people were spending less on themselves and recreation. Since 2011, spending has been increasing. The Underground provides discounts to students, which is a big draw for many, like Pham.

“I like that there’s just a variety of stuff,” Pham said. “It’s this really cool place underneath the union where you can bowl and stuff. And it’s cheap.”

“On a weekly basis, we do Texas Tuesday during the long semesters,” Ray said. UT faculty, staff and students pay only a dollar for shoes and a game compared to their usual rate of $2 or $3. “We don’t do it during the summer,” Ray said, “Because our hours are shorter during the summer and we get a lot more non-UT.”

During the summer the Underground has its black lights, effect lights and disco ball on display all day and every day, while during the year students have to wait until 5 p.m. at the end of the week to see their bowling balls glow. Although bowling is the most popular choice, Ray said billiards comes in second.

Kim and his friends laugh as one of them took aim and shot at the solid 7 ball on the table, but instead missed and the pool cue flew out of his hand.

“If you want to play billiards, foosball, bowling or air hockey,” Kim said, “Or you want ambient noise, this place is good.”