Officials from Montana State University Billings on Monday revealed designs for Yellowstone Hall, a planned $15 million renovation of its old Sciences Building, and kicked off a fundraising campaign to help pay for it.
The unveiling ceremony in the 67-year-old building’s auditorium drew more than 50 people to check out 3-D renderings, floor plans and a virtual tour of some of the building, which will house the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences and the College of Allied Health Professionals.
“It will serve as a proud beacon of learning in the community for years to come,” said Mark Pagano, MSUB provost, vice chancellor for academic affairs and co-chair of the project’s steering committee.
In 2013, the Montana Legislature promised $10 million for the project if MSUB could raise $5 million, a task that will be largely up to the MSUB Foundation.
Chuck Wendt, the foundation’s new president and CEO, said Monday marked the official kickoff of the effort to raise the money needed for MSUB to fulfill its end of the deal.
The foundation has spent the past few months identifying potential donors and will begin approaching them. Wendt said that it’s important for potential donors to realize that they’re giving money to more than a building.
“We ask you to make an investment in our product, and our product is our students,” he said.
MSUB won’t move ahead with groundbreaking or give the design team from Dowling Studio Architects in Helena the go-ahead until the money is raised.
Mike Dowling, the principal in charge of the project, said his firm would need five or six months to finish planning the project before breaking ground.
In addition to the renderings and floor plans, he also provided details about what the building will look like, inside and out.
An expansion will add about 30,000 square feet to the existing 50,000 square feet of the old building. It will include a “three-story tower of light,” a student space covered in windows that will be lit at night.
The building was designed with a “sense of openness” that includes new or renovated shared teaching, learning and research areas, Dowling said. It will also include an outdoor common area and green space.
It will be built with energy costs and environmental concerns in mind under state High Performance Building standards that require some new state buildings to achieve at least silver LEED certification.
Rolf Groseth, MSUB chancellor, said Monday was “a really important day” for the university and said that the current building, while it’s served its purpose and students continue to do well, doesn’t meet the needs of the students.
“We want to take our students into the kinds of environments that they would see when they (go) to work, and our environment here has fallen behind,” he said.
Wendt said it’s important that MSUB students be able to compete on a global stage as they finish college and that the new Yellowstone Hall can help them do that, but not before donors step up to help.
“We’ve got to find $5 million, and we’ve got to find it quickly,” he said.