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Passersby have watched with fascination recently as workers have installed massive pre-cast concrete walls, causing Pittsburg State University's new Center for the Arts to rapidly rise out of the ground. No one has watched with more interest than PSU President Steve Scott.
On Tuesday, Crossland Construction Co. officials gave the president a brief tour so he could see the progress and learn more about the details of the intricate construction.
"It is extremely exciting and energizing to see the progress," Scott said. "As I walked through the site, I couldn't help but think of all of the donors who have made this possible."
Noting that the construction has piqued the interest of the community and of visitors to campus, the president said it sends a clear message.
"This is a campus with momentum," Scott said. "When people see this, they see a university that has defined itself and has a clear mission."
As machines growled and beeped and scores of workers focused on their individual tasks, Construction Superintendent Jeff Machado, who is a PSU alumnus, led the president through the site. Machado pointed out massive pre-cast concrete panels, which rest on the building's 236 foundational piers. Those piers, he said, go down more than 30 feet below grade.
By the time the job is finished, Machado said, the building will include nearly 80,000 square feet of pre-cast concrete panels and will rise 76 feet.
Machado took Scott to the stage area of the theater where he could look over work far below in the orchestra pit and see the first outlines of the seating.
"For me, this is a great experience," Machado said, "because I went to school here."
He said this spring's weather had been a challenge, but work remains on schedule with completion set for the fall of 2014.
"We have a big span to put in today," Machado said. "And for the next four weeks, we'll be doing pre-cast work for the proscenium and stage. It's good to start getting out of the ground."
Among those helping build the Arts Center are eight PSU student interns. One of those, James Steeby, a senior construction engineering major from Parsons, said it was exciting to be working on a major project on campus and I t's something he expects to be able to point to with pride for many years to come.
"It feels good to be part of it," Steeby said. "I know it will always be there in the future and my kids will benefit."
The Center for the Arts is a dream that has been decades in the making, as the university has not had an on-campus venue of this type since Carney Hall closed in 1978. The $33-million facility will include two performance halls, a grand entrance lobby appropriate for receptions and other gatherings, an art gallery, a workspace for an artist-in-residence, a private reception room, a multi-use rehearsal space for large musical groups, and various technical and support spaces.
Many people have given generously to make the Center for the Arts a reality, Scott said. That includes an anonymous lead gift of $10 million and later, a $5-million gift from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation, through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, in honor of PSU graduate and former Walmart president and CEO, H. Lee Scott.
"We're continuing to raise money for this," President Scott said after the tour. "Every gift is important and regardless of the size of the gift, we want people to feel ownership in this building."
For more information about the PSU Center for the Arts, contact the Office of University Development, 620-235-4768.