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Falcon Center construction, Hunt update continue ahead of schedule

Falcon News Service

May 4, 2016

The UW-River Falls campus has been aching for a new athletics facility, and the new Falcon Center is now ahead of schedule.

Mike Stifter, executive director of Facilities Planning and Management, said the building has been in works for many years, with early stages of planning beginning around two decades ago.

The construction that both students and community members have seen in the past year will not end soon, but the light is at the end of the tunnel.

UWRF Athletic Director Roger Ternes said some areas of the building are already nearing completion.

“Some of the areas that are up now are the addition to the training room, locker rooms, strength and conditioning fitness center areas. Those have a good chance of getting completed by fall, even though we might not have them furnished or be in them, those areas will be relatively done,” he said.

The $63.5 million Falcon Center construction also includes updates to Hunt Arena, including the ice hockey rink the hockey teams play on. Ternes said extensive work has been done and the university plans for the 2016-17 season to be on Hunt Arena ice.

“By the end of September, they will have Hunt Arena done,” he said. “We can imagine we will have ice by the end of September. (It) will take a lot of effort on behalf of the construction team.”

The Hunt Arena roof is currently being put back on, and Ternes said the project has seen few delays with only minor roadblocks. He added that the possibility of large-scale issues are past, and that the construction team is working full steam ahead.

“We think we are past that point, that ‘Take a deep breath moment,’” he said. “It was when they peeled back the roof of Hunt Arena when we passed that, because you never know (if) some 40 years ago if they used some asbestos. Even though we had not found any in the pre-construction design, that maybe someone left it off some documents. We didn’t find any, which helped it go very smooth.”

Once the Falcon Center is opened, Karges Center and Emogene Nelson Center are to be demolished.

“Nelson and Karges won’t see any changes next year,” Ternes said. “Karges’ demolition is scheduled in the summer of 2018. It will give us a chance to move out at a modest pace.”

Despite recent lower student enrollment at UWRF, Ternes does not expect an effect on Falcon Center use.

“(The) enrollment picture this fall is very exciting, enrollment trends are up, housing contracts are up,” he said. “There was a dip for a while in high school graduates, and the economy. Now we are seeing an upward trend. The uptick on that (Falcon Center) will just be tremendous. The usage of this space will be in high demand.”

According to Ternes, the Falcon Center is kept on a weekly updated budget, and has a contingency of about 4 percent, just in case something may go wrong. With the upward trend of students at UW-River Falls starting in the fall semester, Ternes said it will really give the university something to be proud of.

“We want to attract new students,” he said. “We recruit the metro area a lot, and they will see River Falls and notice something special, and the commitment we have. It really is a user-friendly facility. We want everybody to be able to be able to host things in a facility that is really state of the art. You look at what we even have now — our softball field may be one of the best of all in Division III.”

Ternes said the best-case scenario for the Falcon Center is to have it ready to go by July 30, 2017.