Construction progresses on new home for OSU Agriculture
Wednesday, August 31, 2022
Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 | email@example.com
The sounds of construction coming from the corner of Monroe Street and Farm Road on Oklahoma State University’s campus are signs of progress on the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall — the new home for OSU Agriculture.
“Campus is a little noisier right now as construction ramps up on our new facility,” said Dr. Thomas G. Coon, vice president and dean of OSU Agriculture. “We have been working on the idea to replace our current Agricultural Hall building for about six years, so we are at a pivotal point right now.”
Cornerstone donors Kayleen and Larry Ferguson announced a historic gift in January 2020, launching the $50 million public phase of the New Frontiers campaign and renaming the college the Ferguson College of Agriculture. A little more than a year later, OSU Agriculture celebrated a groundbreaking event for the transformational project, which will strengthen the three pillars of the land-grant mission: teaching, research and Extension.
In July, the New Frontiers campaign surpassed its $50 million fundraising goal for the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall, thanks to the generosity of more than 600 donors. The milestone comes two and a half years after publicly launching the campaign.
“This new facility will transform and modernize OSU Agriculture,” OSU President Kayse Shrum said. “It also will strengthen OSU’s position as a leader in innovation and continue our tradition of recruiting talented students and faculty. The New Frontiers project embodies our land-grant mission and supports the important role OSU plays in the lives of Oklahomans and the state’s economy.”
Phase one of construction began in May 2021 with the removal of the parking lot and Agriculture North to make room for the footprint of the new building.
Contractors delivered more than a thousand truckloads of fill on the building site, followed by loads of gravel recycled from the parking lot and Ag North debris. They followed that with civil engineering and utilities work in preparation for the second phase of construction.
In addition, construction crews demolished the 4-H Youth Development building, formerly known as the Poultry Science building, and cleared this location on the corner of Monroe Street and Hall of Fame Avenue to serve as the construction staging site and headquarters for the New Frontiers project.
With activities completed for the first construction phase, OSU Agriculture initiated the second bidding phase in early 2022.
“Considering the volatility and instability of the construction market, we continued to be prudent stewards when making decisions regarding the bidding process,” Coon said. “However, it was important we didn’t lose momentum, and we continued to generate excitement for the opportunities and the innovation that the new building will foster.”
Randy Raper, assistant vice president of facilities for OSU Agriculture, said the bidding process gave a better understanding of the total cost of the building.
“With the uncertainty in the construction market, we were expecting an increase in the total cost of the building,” he said. “After the construction bids were opened, reviewed and finalized, the process revealed the cost was about $15 million more than the original $100 million.”
Coon worked with the OSU administration to propose a solution for the building cost increase.
“During the April 2022 meeting, the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents approved financing for an extra $15.2 million to support New Frontiers, bringing the total project cost to $115.2 million,” Coon said. “This action enabled us to continue to progress on the construction site while protecting against any further market inflation.”
Currently, the construction site is booming with activity. During the peak of construction, 100-plus workers will be on site during a day. It is estimated 350 to 400 people will be involved with various work during the duration of the construction project.
The new building is expected to open in fall 2024.
“We wish to thank all the donors who joined alongside us in making this building a reality and giving a new home to the faculty, staff and students of the Ferguson College of Agriculture. Thank you for advancing our mission to help feed the world through the programs, people and facilities of OSU Agriculture.”
The facility is being created with modern teaching methods in mind, utilizing flexible laboratory spaces to serve multiple disciplines and interactive classrooms to harness Ferguson College of Agriculture students’ energy and the excitement of innovation, Coon said.
“It will transform our efforts to become even more collaborative, bringing all of OSU Agriculture’s expertise to bear on the challenges and opportunities facing the state of Oklahoma,” he said. “The facility will change and modernize OSU Agriculture.”
By strengthening teaching, research and Extension missions, the new facility will help to attract and retain scientific leaders and students while equipping collaborative teams with state-of-the-art teaching laboratory and field facilities.
In addition, the facility will include an expanded space and presence for student organizations, including the Student Success Center and a re-imagined Dairy Bar, which was a staple on the Stillwater campus from 1928 to 2006.
“Having a facility like this can excite people, and our faculty, staff and students deserve a spot like this,” Raper said. “The new facility will help recruit more faculty and students.”
During the design process, the OSU Agriculture team worked with architects to come up with a base plan as well as alternate add-ons, or a wish list for the building should funding become available.
“When you’re building a facility like this, you always want more than you can afford; it’s just the nature of doing it,” Raper said. “So, you must figure out what is critical to the mission of the building. What we’re trying to achieve with the building is a tighter integration of all our purposes with teaching, research and Extension, as well as an elevated student experience that exceeds all other buildings on campus.”
Heidi Williams, associate vice president for the OSU Foundation, said the funds raised through the capital campaign will be used solely for the base project. Any add-ons needed would have to come from private funding.
“Even after reaching the $50 million campaign goal, we will continue to raise support for the project as we have naming opportunities available and features of the building that we know will enhance our efforts,” Williams said. “These naming opportunities and additional features will only be possible through more donor support.”
The add-on items include bird-friendly glass for some of the building’s windows to minimize bird collisions, a rainwater catchment system for sustainable teaching and research purposes, colonnades for the front exterior of the building, an artistic monolith located in the lobby of the building and a media wall for programming visibility inside the building.
“Of all the add-ons, the one to me that is central to everything we are doing is the monolith,” Raper said. “I think it will be the place that when students graduate, they will want to go to have their picture taken. It’s going to enhance the experience of everyone entering the building.”
The monolith is composed of three orange oblique structures rising vertically through the main lobby. The three structures are meant to represent teaching, research and Extension and convey the need to explore as the everchanging world evolves.
All the add-ons appeal to different groups, Raper said.
“The media wall is something that could be core to the mission,” he said. “I see everyone in the building benefiting from it. The programming, as well as maintaining the content of the media wall, is going to be an important part of the building.”
The rainwater catchment system is an add-on alternative that enhances sustainability and efficiency.
“We are always looking for ways to incorporate peoples’ passions in the New Frontiers campaign,” Williams said. “The rainwater catchment is one of the many creative naming opportunities within this project.”
From concept to execution, many partners have contributed to the project.
The idea started with the OSU Foundation partnering with consultants Marts & Lundy on a feasibility study to identify how to proceed with seeking private funding for creating a new home for the OSU Agriculture family.
Then, donors stepped forward in early commitments that propelled efforts and inspired a lead gift from the Fergusons, launching the capital campaign.
“We wish to thank all the donors who joined alongside us in making this building a reality and giving a new home to the faculty, staff and students of the Ferguson College of Agriculture,” Kayleen Ferguson said. “Thank you for advancing our mission to help feed the world through the programs, people and facilities of OSU Agriculture.”
The design process has been a collaborative effort, soliciting feedback and recommendations from faculty and students.
Raper is taking the lead in working with Studio Architecture and PGAV architects, as well as construction partners Flintco and OSU Long Range Facilities Planning.
Working on the building project is a generational change to embrace, Raper said.
“Not everyone has the opportunity to work on a project like this and see people come together,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult for a bit when we move in and acclimate to change, but the end goal of seeing everyone work together, I think that’s going to be the exciting part.”
Photos by: Mandy Gross
Story by: Mandy Gross | STATE Magazine