Updated:
Dec 20, 2004
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Growth Spurt Building Construction Progresses at SCC

BY BRIAN KLIMEK: Staff Writer

Dr. John Dempsey strode briskly across campus, braving Wednesday’s frigid temperatures and biting winds, and headed toward the shell of a building that bears his name.

Fifteen months after ground was broken on the Dempsey Student Center, named for the longtime president of Sandhills Community College, the building is coming along nicely.

Most of the windows have been installed, and last week, workers poured the gracefully curving sidewalk that leads to the front door. The huge skylight that illuminates the student common area rises more than 30 feet from the floor and forms the apex of the building.

“Man, I wish we’d have asked them to put heat in this building,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey knows it will be much warmer when the 46,300-square-foot building is officially dedicated in June, but that didn’t stop him from joking about whether the contractor was planning to install heat in the college’s newest facility.

Jokes aside, Dempsey said he is more than pleased with the way things have progressed on the Dempsey Student Center and the adjacent George W. Little Hall. Though completion is still months away, he’s already seeing the finished product in his mind’s eye.

Standing on a second-floor walkway, he noticed a large blank area of wall above a staircase. Waving his hands in a sweeping gesture, he said, “We need to commission Cliff Stuckey (SCC’s art department head) to put a piece of art there.”

It’s easy to see why Dempsey and other school officials are so enthusiastic. There have been relatively few problems with the construction of either building, and both are on budget.

Richard Gough, vice president for business and administrative services at SCC, said the work on both buildings has gone “very well.”

“The two major projects that we’re undertaking right now are both on schedule or very close to being on schedule,” Gough said. “We’re going to cross our fingers and hope it stays that way until completion.”

The architect for both buildings, Mark Wright, was charged with designing buildings that would feature the best in modern amenities while fitting in with the classic style of the campus’ older buildings.

“The architects did a great job with the design,” Gough said. “They tried to blend these buildings in with the existing architecture on campus with the arched windows and the brick. At the same time, they’ve created a light, airy feeling in the (Dempsey) building.”

Dempsey said Wright’s work has been great for the college. Wright previously designed SCC’s Visitor’s Center.

“We think the world of his work,” Dempsey said. “He’s been able to give us great work and if you walk into this building and look at it, you’d think it costs more than it does. He’s able to give you a lot of building for your dollar.

“A lot of these design features typically go into more expensive buildings, but he’s been able to incorporate them into ours.”

The $7.2 million Dempsey Student Center is being funded primarily through local bonds. Little Hall, which is being funded mostly with state bonds, will cost about $6.8 million.

“There are some houses being built at CCNC that cost $7 million,” Dempsey joked. “This is a pretty good building for $7 million!”

Dempsey also sang the praises of the J.H. Allen Co., general contractor for both buildings.

“I couldn’t be more delighted with the way things have gone,” he said. “J.H. Allen has been our construction company and they have been fabulous. They are wonderful to work with and have been ahead of schedule. I live right here, and I walk my dog every Saturday morning. Every Saturday morning at 8 o’clock, these guys are out here working. With the exception of one subcontractor, who happened to go out of business, the building would be ahead of schedule. As it is, it’s right on schedule and at or under budget so we’re very pleased.”

‘Focal Point’ for Campus

The Dempsey Student Center will feature many things that SCC has been lacking.

A new Barnes and Noble bookstore will also serve as the college’s student bookstore. There will also be what Dempsey calls a student lounge.

“There’s going to be a stage over here,” he said. “It will be a quiet room most of the time, but on Friday afternoons it will be a place where the kids can go and play the guitar or whatever.

“We’ll probably also have some small student plays here. Owen Auditorium is a great place, but it’s a big facility for a play. It’s great for concerts, but for plays, it’s not as intimate as we’d like so we’re going to have some of that over here.”

One of the building’s features will be a fitness center that will be available for student and faculty use. Large windows form one wall of the room.

“They’ll be able to pump iron and have this great view,” Dempsey said, pointing out that the view, which will look toward the southeast, will include new tennis courts, a baseball diamond and a soccer field for intramural sports.

The Dempsey Student Center’s gymnasium, which received a fresh coat of paint earlier this week, will also be a haven for intramural gym rats.

The new faculty lounge will be a haven for professors and other campus employees.

“We’ve never had a place where faculty and staff could get together, have lunch or just sit and visit,” Dempsey said. “There will be tables, of course, but we will also have some nice furniture and so forth for our faculty.”

The Dempsey Student Center will also, appropriately, house the college’s student government office.

“This building is really going to be a focal point for the whole campus,” Dempsey said, casting a eye toward the student government president’s future office. “This is a great view. I might have to move my office over here.”

A new cafeteria will form part of the commons area and will phase out the one that’s been dishing out meals since the 1960s.

Complement Each Other

Construction began on Little Hall, which will check in at 47,350 square feet, in December 2003.

Right now, it’s a maze of steel beams and concrete, but school officials anticipate that it will be fully operational by the spring semester of 2006. Little Hall features two main areas.

One, which will house the school’s Wellard Technology Center, will be two stories high. All of the school’s technology and engineering classes will be moved there.

The college’s culinary arts program will be housed in the building’s single story phase, which will be called the Peggy Kirk Bell Culinary and Hospitality Center.

Since the Dempsey Student Center and Little Hall are designed by the same architect and are being built by the same general contractor, they are going to complement each other nicely.

Dempsey pointed out that the loading docks for both buildings will face each other, something he says might not have happened with different architects or contractors.

“We were really fortunate to have the same contractor with the lowest bids for both buildings,” he said.

He managed to get in a joke about the similarity in the size and cost of both buildings: “George insisted that his building be one square foot larger than mine.”

Overall, school officials can’t wait to get both buildings incorporated into the daily business of the college.

“We’re very excited about it,” Gough said. “We definitely need that Barnes and Noble bookstore for the college bookstore and our cafeteria is 1960s vintage. We don’t have a gymnasium on this campus so that’s going to be great for intramurals. Little Hall is going to allow us to expand two of our programs. There’s a long list of folks wanting to get into the culinary program.”

Gough and others won’t have long to wait, because in little more than a year, students and faculty alike will be enjoying the comforts and perks associated with two brand new, state of the art buildings, both of which are sure to help the college continue in its role as one of the Sandhills’ key economic and developmental forces.

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