By Craig Chamberlain A versatile facility for UI student programs was opened officially last weekend when the ribbon was cut on the recently enclosed and renovated patio at the Illini Union. The ribbon-cutting kicked off two evenings of entertainment to celebrate the grand opening and show off the space, designed to accommodate a variety of entertainment and other programs catering to students but open to the university community. A contest to name the space is under way. The patio renovation is the result of discussions at a retreat of the Illini Union Board in 1988, according to Ed Slazinik, associate director of the Illini Union. The board members, almost all students, were asked at that retreat what was missing in the facilities available at the Union, he said. Space for student organization offices and for student programs both were identified as needs. The first need was met with the completion of a second-floor student organization office complex last year, Slazinik said. The patio renovation, which enclosed more than 8,000 square feet of open-air space in the middle of the Union, was designed to address the second need. The Illini Union Board that proposed the project suggested that the facility should be able to accommodate a wide variety of needs, from study space and small discussion groups - mostly during the day - to live music, comedians and small theater productions on evenings and weekends. In looking over the new facility, Slazinik said he thinks "it's pretty much what those students wanted, and once we get things going, I think it's going to be what the students today want." "There was a real demand for program space that was more than just a room," said Nikki Kolaz, a graduate student and the program manager for the new facility. To accommodate that demand, the new facility features a stage, a food-and-beverage service area, a large central patio space, and two smaller raised seating areas, or "porches," on the two ends of the room. To let in natural light through the ceiling, three "lantern" window structures were installed on the roof. The patio enclosure is limited to student activities, Slazinik said, and will not be available for many of the activities held in other large rooms of the Union. He already has turned down requests for the space for conferences and weddings, he said. During the day, when programs are not scheduled, the patio enclosure will serve as a place for students to "hang out" or study, Kolaz said. Music will be playing and a food service will be open, offering coffee, soft drinks and pastries, she said. The total cost of the project, which included fire safety improvements required in other parts of the building as a result of the renovation, was $2.4 million, Slazinik said. The money was raised as part of a revenue bond sale in 1991 to finance construction and land purchases for the university's self- supporting Auxiliary Facilities System. The system includes more than 50 facilities on both the Urbana-Champaign and Chicago campuses, including residence halls, parking facilities, student health centers, unions, recreation centers and sports facilities. Such facilities receive no direct state capital or operating funds.