Rocky Mountain College in Billings will break ground Saturday afternoon on a capital campaign project totaling $10.5 million.
A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., to launch phase one of the $15 million impACT Today Transform Tomorrow initiative. The gathering will take place at the southeast corner of the Bair Science Center.
The initial phase includes a new $8.5 million three-story, 32,972-square-foot science building and a $2 million enhancement of Herb Klindt Field.
Work on the football field is scheduled to begin the last week of April. Construction on the science building will start sometime in May.
On Friday, the Rocky Mountain College Board of Trustees voted unanimously for the football field upgrade to get underway. The board had given approval for the science building in November, Board Chair Rod Kastelitz said.
"This project has been going on for several years, and I praise everyone involved in it, from the community to the donors to all the individuals at the college," he said. "It's going to create such a fantastic facility for future students at Rocky Mountain College."
'A big step'
It’s been at least 10 years since the college has seen this kind of major project on campus, President Bob Wilmouth said.
“We’re just getting started,” he said. “This is a big step in our evolution.”
Wilmouth expressed gratitude to the donors, saying “so many people came together” to make it happen.
“This has a domino effect,” he said. “Eventually, when we finish this project, other things will start moving.”
The new science building will be located just to the west of the Bair Science Center, said Kelly Edwards, vice president for Institutional Advancement at the four-year private college. Originally, talks focused on expanding the current science building.
“Through the planning phase we realized it would be more cost-effective and make more sense to create a new, stand-alone building,” Edwards said.
Because the footprint of the new building juts out onto the football practice field, that required relocation of the practice field. Instead, a decision was made to upgrade the stadium, re-stabilizing the bowl, as well as adding artificial turf and lights.
The new science building will include 19,000 square feet of finished labs and 14,000 square feet of unfinished space that will be developed during phase two of the initiative.
The projected completion date for the new science building is fall 2017, Edwards said. The football stadium upgrades will be finished in August.
Discussions on the need for campus renovations began in 2005. When Wilmouth stepped into his present position, and Edwards moved into hers, three years ago, “we came in and picked up the project and had fresh eyes,” she said.
That included looking down the road 10 years to determine the future needs of the college. That’s where the domino effect comes in.
The $5 million second phase of the capital campaign, for which fundraising continues, will include renovating the Bair Science Center.
“The hope is we’ll be able to launch into phase two after phase one is done,” Edwards said. “Our goal is to use momentum putting the shovel into the ground toward that effort.”
Once completed, Rocky’s physician assistant program will move there from the Fortin Education Center. Then a next possible step might be to use Fortin to house health and human performance, one of Rocky’s three largest programs.
The Bear Bash, an annual fundraiser to benefit Rocky’s athletic program, is happening this weekend, as is a get-together for potential students. Holding the groundbreaking in the middle of those activities will give visitors a chance see the college’s commitment to its future, she said.
CTA Architects Engineers of Billings are the project designers. CMG Construction Inc. of Billings is the general contractor.
Kevin McGovern, one of the owners of CMG, was indicted March 29 on federal conspiracy charges stemming from a large, ongoing corruption investigation of the Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy's Reservation. Two of his other businesses, MC Equipment Holdings LLC and MT Waterworks LLC, were also named as defendants in the indictment.
Edwards said the college is confident in its relationship with CMG, adding that the construction company has done a lot of work on campus.
"We've had nothing but a good relationship with CMG," she said. "We're excited to move along and complete the project with that partnership."
Kastelitz said the issue arose at Friday's board meeting. The college had consulted with several other contractors in Billings that continue to work with CMG on other major projects in town, he said.
"So our board felt comfortable moving forward and working with CMG on this project," Kastelitz said. "The consensus on the board was that CMG has a fantastic reputation and are one of the best in the region in the services they provide."