Friday, November 12, 1999

NKU breaks ground for science center




BY PATRICK CROWLEY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HIGHLAND HEIGHTS — Many times over the last decade, Leon Boothe doubted he would ever see ground broken for a science building on the Northern Kentucky University campus.

SCIENCE CENTER
  • Cost: $38 million, funded by the state of Kentucky.
  • Size: 172,000 square feet.
  • Location: Northwest of the existing science building in an open area between parking lots C and D.
  • Occupancy: Scheduled to be completed for the fall semester of 2002.
  • Departments that will use the center: Astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology and physics.
  • Contractor: Monarch Construction, Cincinnati.
  • Architects: Omni Architects, Lexington.
        So Dr. Boothe, NKU's former president, watched with pride and a sense of accomplishment as a slew of dignitaries — including Gov. Paul Patton and NKU president James Votruba — tossed symbolic shovelsful of dirt Thursday afternoon at the groundbreaking for the $38 million Natural Science Center.

        “I think back to all the hours, sweat, tears we put in trying to get this thing done,” said Dr. Boothe, who helped start the process to win state funding for the center in 1990.

        “We got the ($1 million) basic design formula funding before I left, and so this is just the fulfillment of a lot of work done by lot of people at and for the university,” he said. “I think it's one of the best investments the Commonwealth has ever made in this area because it's going to provide the intellectual capital to make this university and this area viable in the future economy.”

        The Kentucky General As sembly approved funding for the center last year. At $38 million, it's the largest amount the state has ever spent for a single construction project on a university campus.

        “This is going to really put NKU in the game as far as the rest of the state is concerned,” said Jack Moreland, also a former NKU president, who lobbied the legislature for the center.

        “People have known this is a growing, dynamic university,” he said. “But a project like this really puts us over the top.”

        Dr. Votruba said the science building “will reflect not only the dreams we have for the campus today but the dreams the university's founders had.”

        The building, scheduled to open in 2002, will replace an existing science building that university officials say is antiquated, small, and even dangerous because it lacks the proper equipment and facilities for science experiments and projects.

        “We really need a new science building,” said Juliann Kramer, 20, a sophomore from Batesville, Ind., majoring in biology and education. “The building we have now is too small and doesn't have the equipment we need. Sometimes the sinks don't even work, so this new building will be great for the students and great for the school.”

        The center was not an easy sell in Frankfort.

        John Finnan, president of People's Bank of Northern Kentucky, headed the Northern Kentucky Consensus Committee — area political, business and community leaders that pushes for state funding for local projects — that began lobbying for the center back in 1992.

        “It took a while because we had to convince legislators from other parts of the state not only how far NKU had come, but also how badly this building was needed,” Mr. Finnan said.

        “We never gave up,” said state Rep. Royce Adams, D-Dry Ridge. “A lot of credit goes to Gov. Patton and former Gov. (Brereton) Jones. They supported the project and that helped us get the money from the General Assembly.”

        In the crowd watching the ceremony was Andrew Millar of Fort Thomas, 26, an NKU graduate who collected petitions signed by 2,500 students in support of the center.

        “It feels so good to know that not only are we getting this building, but that a lot of hard work by a lot of people really paid off,” Mr. Millar said.



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