RIVER FALLS — A modernized science and technology building proposed for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls campus was included in Gov. Tony Evers’ biennial capital budget.

The budget recommendations released Monday, Feb. 22, include more than $116 million for the Science and Technology Innovation Center, or SciTech.

The 72,000-square-foot building, set to replace Hagestad Hall, will foster education in science, technology, engineering and math, while creating collaboration opportunities with businesses around the rapidly growing region, interim Chancellor Connie Foster told the Star-Observer.

“This is not just another academic STEM laboratory building,” Foster wrote in an email. “SciTech is the future of western Wisconsin, representing possibilities for engagement and innovation, opportunities for talent and knowledge to be shared more intentionally, and ultimately supporting the economic vitality of our local communities and businesses.”

UWRF alums Jeff and Kristi Cernohous recently pledged a $1 million challenge gift for SciTech intended to inspire others to support the project. The city of River Falls, Pierce County Board, Momentum West and area chambers of commerce and economic development corporations have voiced support as well.

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What’s in the capital budget?

All told Evers’ 2021-2023 Capital Budget has $2.38 billion in spending recommendations for facilities and other infrastructure projects statewide.

[JARGON WATCH: Capital project — a term for major construction, maintenance or acquisition of physical assets. This can include putting up a new building or reconstructing a roadway.]

“The capital budget is an investment in the up-keep of our infrastructure for longevity and public safety and in the future we want to build for our state,” the Democratic governor said in a news release. “It's about our priorities — from investing in sustainable energy options and protecting our public lands, to supporting the growth of our UW campuses and students, to reforming our juvenile justice system, to investing in community development, this capital budget will have a far-reaching impact on our communities and our state for generations to come.”

SciTech is part of $1 billion in capital recommendations for the UW System, along with a host of classroom and facility projects on campuses across the state. Most of the funding comes from tax-supported general fund dollars.

Also included is $483,000 to renovate UWRF’s Agricultural Science Plant & Earth Science laboratory.

  • Read the full 2021-2023 Capital Budget here (link is external)

What happens to Hagestad Hall?

The 60-year-old former student center — replaced by the University Center in 2006 — would be demolished under the university’s plan.

“(Hagestad Hall) is a substandard facility in poor functional and physical condition with outdated and unreliable building infrastructure and poor building envelope performance, energy efficiency and room aspect ratios for instructional purposes,” according to the capital budget project description for SciTech.

The building was vacated last year following the completion of Rodli Hall renovations, and also housed a COVID-19 testing site when classes resumed in fall 2020.

What happens next?

The State Building Commission is scheduled to meet March 17 to vote on the governor’s recommendations. From there the commission’s recommendations will go to the Joint Committee on Finance no later than the first Tuesday in April.

The Legislature would vote on the state budget and capital budget later this summer.

Should the SciTech project advance, construction would tentatively begin in April 2024 and be completed by June 2026.