MANATEE-- With gold shovels in hand, board of trustees members at the State College of Florida broke ground for the new 36,000 square foot two-story academic building.
Site work for the new building began in December, and the ground breaking ceremony was held Friday morning.
Cliff Grenfell, senior superintendent of Gates construction, said they are aiming to complete the $7.1 million project by late summer with the intention of opening the building to students this fall.
The Academic Building 9 will replace the social science building, former music wing and some faculty offices.
"We are taking three of the oldest buildings on campus that were outdated and hazardous and would probably never pass an OSHA inspection and giving students the facilities they need to get the jobs of tomorrow," said Craig Trigueiro, State College of Florida board of trustees chairman.
Students agree the social science building, constructed in the 1960s, felt cramped and outdated. Student body president Evans Rimel said he is looking forward to the more modern feel the new building will bring to the campus.
"It will be easier to find classes, and the offices will be more accommodating for the faculty," Rimel said. "It will be a better environment."
The new building will feature 17 classrooms, conference rooms and faculty offices.
State College of Florida president Carol Probstfeld said students have also been enjoying the renovated student union, which includes video gaming stations, ping pong tables, pool tables and charging stations for devices.
"From the very first day students have been in here enjoying it," Probstfeld said. "We are looking forward to the next phase."
The construction of the new academic building is being paid for by a combination of public education capital outlay funds and the college's funds earmarked for remodeling and renovations.
Trigueiro said this is just the beginning of improvements at the State College of Florida. He said would like to see the science building updated next.
"Some parts of the building are 20 years old and are still OK, but there are older parts that are not OK," Trigueiro said.
Health care studies and classes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are areas of interest for many incoming college students, and Trigueiro said he would like to see the college provide the best facilities possible.
The college is also working on getting $17.6 million in seed funding from the legislature for a new library.
"We are trying to envision what would be best 10, 15 and 20 years from now," Trigueiro said. "We want the enhancement to have a 30 year lifespan."
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.