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Falcon Center athletic complex enters last stages of construction

The Falcon Center project is set to be completed in July of 2017, but parts could be open to students sooner, as soon as this fall. (Photo by Molly Kinney)1 / 2
Support Beams of the future Page Arena make the future gymnasium easier to visualize. UW-River Falls Falcon Volleyball and Basketball will call the gym home. (Photo by Molly Kinney)2 / 2

RIVER FALLS -- The long awaited Falcon Center is finally coming together at UW-River Falls.

The $63.5 million project has been in the works for nearly two decades. It’s moving into the last stages of construction.

Tim Thum, UWRF senior facilities engineer, said the timeline is actually ahead of schedule. The entire project could be completed just over a year from now -- in July 2017.

“The project was projected to be finished in the fall of 2017,” Thum said. “It’s looking like some of the building will be open this fall.”

What’s most time sensitive, he added, is the new-and-improved Hunt Arena, where Falcon men’s and women’s hockey is played in winter.

A major improvement Falcon fans will notice in Hunt Arena this fall is the extension of its roof. This will allow for better walking spaces above the expanded seating area.

Previously the seating area was pushed up against the back wall between rafters. A narrow walkway was right against the ice rink wall.

“The focus right now is finishing up Hunt,” Thum said. “It’s a pretty good timescale.”

Exteriors that have been under construction are near completion. Work on east side entrances has finished.

The only exterior that’s still in preliminary stages is that of the new Page Performance Gym, on the far west side of the construction complex.

Arching beams, that will later be exposed inside, are the newest and most noticeable additions to this part of the building. That gymnasium will host college basketball and volleyball games. It will also be open for student recreation as well.

Smaller exterior projects are soon to be finished, too.

Within the past two weeks, paths leading from campus to the Falcon Center have been connected, and concrete has been poured in many spots.

“That’s been a nice milestone for the university on this project,” Thum said.

Interiors of the Falcon Center are not quite so finished looking, but underneath construction dust a lot of progress has been made.

Three classrooms on the south side are all framed, floored and painted on some walls. Locker rooms for a number of teams have been tiled and painted, and wooden lockers put in place.

“That was an important aspect of this project for athletes, to have their own spaces,” Thum said.

The Falcon Center is being built to accommodate all students, though. The Auxiliary Gymnasium, which will host student recreation and intramural sports, is complete for all but the wooden floor, as it’s being used for construction storage space.

Three group exercise rooms on the north side are nearly completed as well, with wooden floors, mirrors and big windows for lots of natural light.

A big part of interior construction has also been a space to replace the free weight room that is currently located in Karges.

The large, open room is near completion, situated adjacent to many athletic offices, and a new space for Falcon Outdoor Adventures. A new climbing wall, too, will be housed under the tallest area of the facility.

Many aspects of the Falcon Center project were already completed for spring sports this year.

Softball played on a new field, and it’s likely that soccer teams will be playing on a new field this fall, Thum said.

New turf, seating, press boxes and a team dugout have been created for both sports. He also added that new scoreboards were also bought.

Thum made sure to say that construction has stayed well within budget.

The only setback for construction has been rain. That’s taken into account during planning, though, so the few days construction was postponed won’t affect the projected completion date.

“The place should be a lot more accessible to students this fall,” Thum said. “There’s good progression, a good timeline. We’ll have this all enclosed by the time it gets real cold.”