Dining hall disaster



Students were turned away from Rialto during the lunch rush on Nov. 16. According to university officials, a fan in the Towers Center malfunctioned, emitting smoke and causing sprinklers to engage within the dining hall.


Mechanical malfunction causes temporary Rialto closure 

Between 11 a.m. and noon on Wednesday, Nov. 16, emergency vehicles gathered around Rialto Dining Hall. Situated on the north side of campus, Rialto sits between Bender and Dancer Hall and serves the majority of students living in those residence halls along with Lawther Hall.

At 11:36 a.m., UNI Dining tweeted the following statement: “RIALTO IS CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Due to a mechanical issue in the building, Rialto is closed. We will post an update once the issue has been resolved. Piazza is open.”

They posted a subsequent tweet minutes later clarifying that, “A mechanical issue in the building triggered the sprinklers to go off within Rialto. Staff are working to get the area cleaned so we can resume operations. More updates to follow.”

During the lunch rush, students seeking to enjoy their meal at Rialto were turned away and directed to eat at Piazza on the south side of campus or the food court in Maucker Union.

At 1:26 p.m., UNI Housing & Dining sent a mass email to all students reiterating the information from their Tweets, saying, “As you may already be aware, Rialto closed just before noon today due to a mechanical issue in the building. This issue triggered the sprinklers to go off in the kitchen area and one of the venues within Rialto. Staff are currently working to get the area cleaned so Rialto can resume operations as quickly as possible. Please follow @UNI_Dining on Twitter for updates. Piazza has remained open during this time.”

Director of University Relations Pete Moris gave a statement to the Northern Iowan regarding the incident.

“Smoke caused by a mechanical issue with a fan within Towers triggered the sprinkler system to engage as designed,” Moris said. “Rialto is currently closed as our team works to clean the impacted area and repair the damaged fan in the mechanical area. We hope to reopen Rialto as soon as possible. Piazza remains open for service. We apologize for any inconvenience to our students and staff. 

This is not the first incident at Rialto that has resulted in the temporary closure of the dining hall. In September 2018, a major steam leak kept Rialto closed for two weeks and resulted in the death of a maintenance worker.

At 3:08 p.m., UNI Dining announced via Twitter, “UPDATE: Rialto will reopen at 5 p.m., just in time for the Thanksgiving meal.”