SciTech construction approved for 2023
October 13, 2022
The University of Wisconsin-River Falls Science and Technology Innovation Center, or SciTech, a project which has been in development since 2017, reached a major milestone on Aug. 9. On this date, the project was unanimously approved by the State Building Commission, the final step before construction can begin.
The SciTech building will house the biology, physics, chemistry, and psychological sciences departments and provide larger classrooms, better equipment, and various other improvements. Alan Symicek, Chief Facilities Officer at UW-River Falls, said, “It really is going to be transformational…compared to our existing facilities.”
SciTech will house the new University Business Collaboration Center, a space designed for regional businesses to work with students on undergraduate research and other endeavors. This space will contain a makerspace, a wet laboratory, and a woodshop.
“The hope is really that undergraduate research and working together with the business community [will] breed opportunities for internships and really strong job opportunities after [students] graduate,” Symicek said.
The SciTech building will be located near the Agricultural Sciences building, and will replace Hagestad Hall, which is scheduled to be demolished in February or March of 2022. This is intended to create what Symicek referred to as a “science distract” on campus, where SciTech and AgSci will be able to collaborate more easily.
“I think the main reason that SciTech was initiated was really to…provide students with state-of-the-art right spaces to learn, and have laboratories and undergraduate research,” Symicek said. “…I think modernising these facilities [will] allow us to provide a really world-class education in the facility.”
Construction on SciTech is scheduled to start in August 2023 and to be completed in August 2025. Currently, the project is in the final design phase, and BWBR, the architect UW-River Falls is working with, is finalizing the construction drawings.
Then, in November of this year, UWRF will hold a final design review before issuing the bid documents to contractors in December or January. In the fall of 2025, the technology and lab equipment is scheduled to be installed, and the grand opening of SciTech, as well as the first classes held in the building are projected to take place in January of 2026.
The project is estimated to cost $116.73 million. $111.73 million has already been funded by the state of Wisconsin via state taxpayer dollars. This leaves $5 million, which the university is raising through fundraising, alumni support, and collaboration with corporate partners and businesses in the St. Croix Valley. This $116.73 million will cover construction as well as equipment and technology expenses for the building.
Symicek said, “There’s really no student fees [needed] for that piece of the construction... That, as I understand, would not have an effect on student fees.”
The construction of SciTech will allow the university to carry out other renovations around campus as well. The university plans to renovate the Agricultural Science building, the Centennial Science Hall, and North Hall sometime in the future.
Once the chemistry, physics, and psychological sciences departments have been moved from Centennial to SciTech, the empty space in Centennial will house AgSci operations while AgSci is renovated. Then, North Hall will be renovated, and its operations will be moved to Centennial as well. Lastly, Centennial will be remodeled.
“Now that's a ways in the future we don't have funding for that long-term, long-range planning,” Symicek said. “…We think we'll have to reevaluate the need; that may be 10 [or] 15 years in the future.” With these projects in the future, the university hopes that the SciTech building can benefit not only STEM students, but the UW-River Falls students as a whole.