PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Construction of a new engineering building at University of Wisconsin-Platteville started with a blast.

Crews on Friday were using explosives to clear bedrock on the south side of campus, marking the start of the new $55 million Sesquicentennial Hall, a facility that will house all of the institution’s engineering programs.

“We are the largest supplier of bachelor’s-trained engineers in the state of Wisconsin,” said Chancellor Dennis Shields. “We need a facility that will continue to provide high quality, up-to-date training for our students.”

The building will be located just south of Busby Hall of Engineering along the northwest corner of Southwest Road and Longhorn Drive.

It will feature improved laboratories, enabling faculty to update the institution’s engineering curriculum, and a makerspace in which students and faculty can turn ideas into marketable products.

UW-P’s computer science department also will relocate to Sesquicentennial Hall, which Shields hopes will foster interdisciplinary collaboration.

The structure itself will serve as a classroom, Shields said. Exposed interior walls will reveal electrical, ductwork and control systems, enabling students to observe building construction techniques.

It also will be LEED-certified, which recognizes that a structure is designed and constructed to maximize energy savings, water efficiency and reduction of CO2 emissions.

Miron Construction Co., of Neenah, was awarded a $28.1 million contract to oversee the project.

Project manager David LaBarge said crews will continue pouring the foundation through the winter, and it is expected to be completed by April. He estimates construction will conclude in March 2022.

Currently, UW-P’s engineering programs are housed in Ottensman Hall. Constructed in 1966 and originally called Centennial Hall, the facility has become obsolete.

“If you can imagine, No. 1, how much the training and technology of engineering has changed in 50 years, you begin to get an idea of what the need was,” Shields said.

Once emptied, Ottensman Hall will be renovated and repurposed, but university leaders have not determined for what. One option is to relocate several student service offices and demolish the old dormitories in which they currently are housed.

Local lawmakers, UW-P alumni and industry professionals lobbied the state for the funding to build Sesquicentennial Hall, which was the only new construction project financed in the 2017-2019 Wisconsin biennial budget along with $24 million for the renovation of a science facility, Boebel Hall.

The prioritization of the project reflects UW-P’s contribution to Wisconsin’s workforce, Shields said. About 75% of the university’s engineering graduates remain within the state to work.

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