UWEC hopes to get funding for science building in next state budget

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 9:03 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -As lawmakers work out the details of Wisconsin’s next budget, those with an area university are hopeful one big project gets funding.

For Chancellor James Schmidt creating a new science and health sciences building has been a top priority since he started at UW-Eau Claire.

“I said: ‘Oh my gosh, I wonder if they realize how bad of shape this building is in?’ Schmidt said. “At that moment I said: ‘This has to be the first thing that is improved when I get here.’”

Phillips Hall is the current building serving students taking many science-related courses. It’s been around almost six decades.

University officials said it wasn’t built to handle the needs of the latest technology. To fix that, they plan to create a new facility from the ground up.

“We are pleased to have received the full support of the legislature and the governor back in 2019 for the first phase of the science building funding, and this year we’re seeking phase two, so we can actually build the entire building,” Schmidt said.

That first phase meant the state put more than $100 million for the project into the biennial budget. It included the demolition of two halls to make space for the new building.

Now as lawmakers debate the next budget, Chancellor Schmidt is hopeful they’ll approve state dollars to cover the facility’s projected costs.

“Inflation has taken a toll on construction, and that’s one of the lessons is, if we put this off, the building’s only going to get more expensive, so this year our request, based on Department of Administration numbers for projected inflation, is $231 million for the second portion of the funding,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt’s hope is with these state dollars, the new science and health sciences building will be a game changer in many ways like helping the university continue to expand its program for students looking to become nurses.

If the state approves the funding, UWEC plans to break ground on the new building next year. It would then be expected to open in 2026.