The 12-year planning and development process to expand and improve the Lewis Science Center reached a milestone during the topping out ceremony Sept. 25. The ceremony honored the placement of the final beam in the 50,000-square-foot expansion’s frame.
Prior to its placement, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics faculty were invited to sign the beam.
President Tom Courtway, Provost Steven Runge and several Board of Trustees members gathered in the skeletal structure of the long-awaited LSC extension to address students, faculty, community members, local elected officials and a few state representatives before the building’s structure was completed.
“We started really [planning]in 2003…and one thing was clear: We needed to expand and we needed to manage our existing spaces,” Runge said to the crowd. “Twelve years we’ve been working on this to see this finally coming to fruition, so it’s an exciting time. We turn out a great product, our students do great things, our faculty do great research, we do great mentoring: all of that in a facility that could be a lot better.”
Before the new building was topped out, Courtway, BOT Chairman Brad Lacy, BOT member Bobby Reynolds, Runge and CEI Contractors representative Will Black briefly spoke about the project.
CEI Contractors is the construction management firm overseeing the project.
Speaking first, Courtway was quick to thank both Conway Corporation and “the best student body in America” for their contributions to the project, as well as address how long-awaited the renovation has been.
Conway Corporation pledged to donate $3 million to the project in December 2014.
“We as an institution can’t thank Conway Corp. and its legacy, enough for that gift. Thank you, from UCA,” Courtway said. “What [students]did to make this building possible is [agree]to a $3.50 per credit hour fee on themselves, so they essentially taxed themselves to make this building possible. To the student body and the leaders of the student body…we appreciate it.”
Lacy and Reynolds from the BOT emphasized how long this project has been sought after among faculty and trustees alike and how essential it is to developing UCA’s educational strongpoints.
“I remember the first year I went on the Board [and]one of the first things we did was walk through [LSC]…I have to say I was a little shocked at the condition that part of those classes and lab spaces were in,” Lacy said. “Especially when you think about the things that we’re so good at here at UCA. We’re good at many of the health sciences [and]this space is…the basis for so many things that we excel at.”
The LSC project broke ground last semester. In addition to the new building, renovations will also be made to the existing building, including fixing classrooms and the roof.
The new building will mainly consist of laboratory space with some “learning, teaching and research areas,” according to uca.edu. It will also include a new digital planetarium.
Many updates are designed to increase energy efficiency and aim to gain the university Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
The new space and renovated older building will be completed in January 2017.
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 30, 2015 print edition of The Echo.