In the bright sunshine and gusty winds of a Nebraska fall morning, Chadron State College President Dr. Randy Rhine cut ceremonial ribbons twice Saturday as the college dedicated its newest physical facilities, the Rangeland Complex and the Chicoine Center.
“It’s just such a fantastic day for the college. The buildings are going to add so much, and already have,” said Rhine. “It’s a tremendous thing for us. It’s a tremendous thing for the community and the region. These facilities are going to help us improve our programs and serve us well into the future.”
More than 200 people were on hand for the first of the ceremonies, at the two-building Rangeland Complex on a hilltop overlooking the picturesque campus and the scenic Pine Ridge landscape.
“I can’t imagine a better location for the range program than this,” Rhine told the audience of community members, alumni, donors and college officials. “It’s just perfect. It’s in the middle of a living laboratory for that program.”
A combination of public and private funding went into building the complex, which includes the 25,000 square foot Coffee Agriculture Pavilion and the adjacent laboratory and classroom building, slated to open for students in the fall of 2016. Private support, particularly from the family of pioneer rancher C.F. Coffee, paid for the pavilion, while the state of Nebraska supported construction of the $4 million lab and classroom building, and the Chadron State Foundation raised an additional $600,000 for equipment, according to Rhine.
“The individual contributions made it happen,” said Dr. Janie Park, Rhine’s predecessor as CSC president, who led the foundation’s Vision 2011 fundraising campaign that helped finance the project. “For many years all we had was architectural drawings. To see it actually standing is special.”
Completion of the project will help recruit students for Chadron State’s rangeland science program, said Dr. Chuck Butterfield, a former professor in CSC’s rangeland program, who said he began sketching designs for the complex more than 10 years ago.
“[The new classrooms and labs will allow more interaction] with stuff we never got to do in the other building. It adds more labs and more room for our growing program,” said Nate Jech of Rushville, Nebraska, a senior rangeland student and one of three siblings involved in the program.
A similar-size crowd gathered later in the morning for dedication of the Chicoine Center, named for Chadron businessman and philanthropist Vernon Chicoine, whose $2.6 million bequest was the largest gift ever made to the Chadron State Foundation.
“I think Vern would have been proud,” Rhine said. “It’s a crowning achievement for the campus.”
The center, with an 1,800 seat arena, 52,000 square foot strength and conditioning center, new locker rooms, offices and training facilities, occupies the former role of the 60s-era Armstrong gym, a building that served the college well for many years, said Rhine.
The renovated and expanded structure hosted its first competitions last fall and gives the college “a premier athletic facility” that will help in recruiting athletes, who form a significant portion of the campus-based student body,” he said.
Rhine praised the collaborative efforts of the state, college and foundation in bringing the project to fruition.
“Because of this historic partnership, the future is brighter,” he said.
The Chadron State Foundation exists primarily to raise money for scholarships, so the decision to support capital construction projects was a big step, said Jim Wefso, outgoing chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
“I think it turned out to be a good decision, because in the long run we will have more students, more graduates and more alums…to perpetuate the scholarship endowment,” he said. “And contributions to the two projects have been made without depleting the foundation’s assets, which have grown from about $9 million two years ago to about $20 million today. It’s been a great result.”
Saturday’s events don’t mark the end of construction projects at Chadron State College, noted both Rhine and Stan Carpenter, Chancellor of the Nebraska State College System. Planning is already underway for an addition and renovation of the college’s Math and Science building, work on Elliott Field and stadium and a new outdoor track, Carpenter said.
The NSCS Board of Trustees have approved program statements for the Math and Science building and Elliott Field projects, and those will advance to Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education soon, said Rhine. CSC may receive the results of that review by early next year, he said.