Howard University soon will open a $9-million university center that will provide educational, recreational and dining facilities in the heart of its main campus.

The Armour J. Blackburn University Center, now in its final stages of construction, is expected to open in mid-March.

Using a combination of wood, glass, marble and brick in its interior, the new union offers such features as an open staircase extending up three stories in the entrance lobby, a fountain with a reflecting pool facing the building, a glass-enclosed browsing room overlooking the reflecting pool, an outdoor brick patio off the cafeteria, an outdoor terrace, a large, glass-enclosed penthouse ballroom and a lounge with a sundeck on the fourth floor.

Within the center will be a 12-lane bowling alley, rooms for billiards, ping pong, cards and other games, a music listening room, offices and darkrooms for student publications, a variety store, a small auditorium, meeting rooms and a poster duplicating service.

A large combination cafeteria-rathskeller and a full-service restaurant also are planned. The center also will house several lounges and expanded office space for student organizations and administrative staff.

Original plans and sketches for the student center were drawn up by the architectural firm of Justement and Justement. Since planning first began in July 1968, the architectural company of Dalton-Dalton-Little-Newport has been in charge of the project.

Because of changes in building design, materials and equipment, several proposed opening dates have not been met. Fred Alston, project manager for Dalton, said that at least 97 percent of the work is completed.

The student union is a much-needed facility, say university officials, because of the large number of non-resident students enrolled at Howard. Only 3,340 of the 10,700 students live on campus. The rising cost of tuition and room and board fees are turning more students toward apartment, off campus living.

Except for a small eating establishment that serves hamburgers and other fast foods, there is only one dining hall for students on the main campus. The new center will offer most of the popular extracurricular activities and food services that now draw students into the surrounding community.

The intercultural center is named for a former Howard dean of students who served from 1949 to 1969. In the early 1960s Dr. Blackburn initiated the idea of building the center, but he died in March 1970 while his ideas for a student union were still being developed.

Dedication ceremonies in mid-March will mark the culmination of nearly three years of construction work to develop the living-learning environment that he envisioned.