The concept of a gathering place for UW-Whitewater students began many years ago. In the late 1930's and early 1940's, the Goal Post on Main Street, which later became Salamone's Restaurant, was a meeting place for students. In 1947, an old army barracks was moved from Camp Grant in Rockford, IL to Whitewater. The Post-War Building Fund donated $5,000 to help reconstruct the barracks, which then served as the first "student union."
In 1959, the doors to a new student union were opened for the first time. The new construction housed a lounge, cafeteria, game room and bookstore, along with offices and meeting rooms. A south addition was built in 1963 to keep up with the growing enrollment. Included in this addition was another dining area - The Warhawk, more study and programming space, a new game room with a bowling center and an information desk.
Square footage was again added in 1988 to offer more services and program space including another restaurant, the Student Service Center (now Information/Ticket Services), the UW Credit Union, a copy center (now Printing Services), convenience store, administrative offices, the Campus Activities and Programs Office (now Leadership Development), and student organization offices.
Updates throughout the 1990's included the Rec Center, Commons, Schaffer Room & Warhawk. In the mid-1990's, the University Center developed a plan to remodel the union, blending the three buildings and utilizing the services of the now 139,500 square feet more efficiently. In 1997, the University Center was officially named after former Chancellor James R. Connor.
The turn of the millennium hadn't slowed the growth of the University Center. In 2002, the UC welcomed a new ice cream parlor named Shiver's to its already extensive list of attractions. The Minneiska Dining Room also had been the recipient of a facelift.
In 2008 the James R. Connor University Center completed a $20.2 million project, which constructed approximately 50,000 new square feet and remodeled approximately 47,000 square feet. This renovation removed the 1958 and 1963 additions to the building, creating an open space. Throughout the planning process and plan development, the architects never forgot the phrase "A place to see and be seen". No longer would the University Center be an area with narrow hallways and brick walls, the revamped space provides an open, airy atmosphere. The space provides the following functions: