Big construction era about to begin

August 15, 2012

A drawing showing a bird's eye view of the Armstrong project from the southwest. (Illustration by Leo A Daly) A drawing showing a bird's eye view of the Armstrong project from the southwest. (Illustration by Leo A Daly)

Chadron State College is nearing its most progressive period of construction in decades as the 2012-2013 academic year begins.

During the upcoming school year, the college expects to break ground on about $19 million in facility construction and renovations. Construction on the initial phase of the Rangeland Complex, the first phase of the expansion and renovation of the Armstrong Physical Education Building, and new housing units at the east side of campus are all expected to begin in the coming academic year.

The college has scheduled a ground-breaking ceremony for the Rangeland Complex on Sept. 6, which will coincide with the meeting of the Nebraska State College System’s Board of Trustees in Chadron. The NSCS is in the final phases of selecting a construction manager for the Armstrong project with construction to begin in the coming months. While the funding for housing project hasn’t been finalized, officials believe its construction also could begin in spring 2013.

“With so much construction activity getting started, it’s going to be an exciting year at Chadron State,” said Dr. Randy Rhine, interim president. “Not only will these projects help Chadron State attract and serve students, they will be incredible assets for the region and western Nebraska.”

The Rangeland Complex and the Armstrong projects, which have received millions of dollars in pledges from private donors and continue to garner support from the Chadron State Foundation’s Vision 2011 fundraising campaign, took flight earlier this year with help from two large funding sources. The Nebraska Legislature appropriated $6.7 million for the Armstrong project in April, and the Rangeland Complex became the beneficiary of a $1 million loan from USDA Rural Development earlier this month.

Dale Grant, CSC vice president for administration, said the first phase of the Rangeland Complex, which includes the arena, will possibly be completed in fall 2013, and the first phase of the Armstrong project in fall 2014.

“It’s difficult to set a completion date, especially before construction begins, but we’re optimistic that we can get it done in that time. There is a lot that goes into it, but we have to have a goal,” Grant said. “There are so many variables that can affect large projects such as these. For instance, if a shipment of steel gets held up somewhere, construction will slow down until it arrives.”

When both phases are completed, the Rangeland Complex will be a jewel of CSC’s programs for rangeland management, veterinary sciences and natural resources. The facility will permit CSC to expand its academic courses in range management, domestic livestock, equine science, wildlife management, soil and plant sciences, and production processes and technique.

The new housing project will include three units with a total of 72 beds east of the Burkhiser Complex. The buildings will consist of pods, each with four single bedrooms sharing a bathroom and living room. The units will replace the 12 single-story West Court Apartment units that have deteriorated since their construction for married housing in 1957 to 1961.

Representatives from Leo A Daly, the architectural firm for the Armstrong project, were on campus again last week to iron out design details with college officials, coaches and other users of the building. They have provided floor plans and new aesthetic drawings of the building’s exterior.

The plans illustrate a modern 2,100-seat sports arena to the south of the existing structure, with new locker rooms, entryways, offices, weight room, meeting spaces, and training facilities. The new arena and weight facility are included in the first phase, and the current gym will be used as a practice facility.

Rhine noted that the projects won’t come without some growing pains.

“As these projects help add value to our campus, the region and the economy, we’ll need the public’s patience,” Rhine said. “Some of our services will be disrupted as we improve the long-term vitality of Chadron State College and the community.”

For instance, he said, the first part of the project will be the conversion of the swimming pool area to a strength-training facility, leaving the campus without an indoor pool. Such a timeline was adopted because the current weight room above Armstrong Gym will be converted to a hub for the building’s new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, which will need to be in place as other construction progresses.

“It’s unfortunate that swimmers will be without a pool this winter,” Rhine said. “We will continue to discuss the issue and explore other options for replacing the pool.”

Rhine noted that a smaller recreational pool is part of the 10-year master plan, but its construction will depend on the ability to obtain funding and its prioritization with other campus needs. College officials have been exploring partnerships with the City of Chadron for the creation of an indoor swimming area that could serve the community, including college students.

—Justin Haag, CSC Information Services