Redefining the Classroom

Physical Plant Director Says Arts Center Is Good Fit For LSSU

Posted: February 19th, 2003

Feb. 18, 2003
DIRECTOR'S INSPECTION - Lake Superior State University Physical Plant Director Rick Waligora poses in what will be a classroom in LSSU's Fine and Performing Arts Center, slated for completion next year.

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – It's easy to understand why a person interested in the arts would be excited about Lake Superior State University's fine and performing arts center. Once completed, the facility will be one of the best places in the region to see a performance or learn about how to produce one.

But from the physical plant's point of view, there is perhaps even more to like about the structure that is taking shape on the northwest corner of campus. Rick Waligora, director of the Physical Plant since July 2000 and himself a fan of the arts, appreciates the building for its physical structure as well as its beauty and purpose.

"This facility will fit in very nicely with Lake State's other campus buildings," Waligora said. "In addition, the design is much more operations- and maintenance-friendly than previous designs. It will be easier to clean and take care of. It's a very user-friendly design."

LSSU's arts center is modeled after Detroit Country Day School's facility in Beverly Hills, Mich. Waligora, LSSU administration and the Board of Trustees have visited the DCDS facility and were impressed with its potential for LSSU.

"The acoustics of the auditorium are wonderful," Waligora said. "You can stand in the upper most corner and listen to a normal conversation on stage with no amplification. Every seat in the house is excellent."

Bruce Harger, activing vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, was equally impressed with the facility that will soon belong to LSSU.

"Before I visited the facility at Detroit Country Day, I could not imagine or appreciate the beauty and sheer magnitude of this building," Harger said. "I was awestruck! The possibilities for the performing and fine arts are endless. The campus and communities on both sides of the International Bridge will be enriched by the availability of this fine facility."

Waligora said the hallways, classrooms and arts facilities are all beautifully appointed and suit their purpose well. While the LSSU facility and Detroit Country Day building are essentially the same, LSSU is taking advantage of the campus landscape to add its own touch to the facility design.

"We modified the north side of the building," Waligora said. "Our facility is being built into a hill, whereas Country Day's center is on flat land. Our location allowed us to use our landscape – the natural slope -- to a greater advantage."

As a result of LSSU taking the DCDS design, the University was able to save the headache of finding out about changes that inevitably need to be made during the middle of any construction project. In addition, the design allowed LSSU to proceed with the facility after the original bids came in much higher than expected.

"We captured the change orders in our design," Waligora said. "When you can do that up front, the cost is insignificant as opposed to making the changes in the middle of the project. That's how we're able to manage the budget as we are. We have equipment budgeted for each area – the offices, the labs, all of it. The budget is in good shape."

Waligora said construction is on schedule. Contractors have been able to work into the winter on all but the colder days, and were able to enclose the lower level on the north side as the snow began to fly.

"The weather earlier in the winter was cooperating," Waligora said. "We were able to get a lot of things done. We've enclosed the lower level of the north wall, which is primarily office and classroom space, and we'll be able to continue to work in there for the rest of the winter. In the spring, we'll start construction on the auditorium portion of the facility."

Waligora said many local contractors and construction workers are being used for the project. The two biggest contracts – mechanical and electrical – went to contractors with main offices in the region. The mechanical contract went to Dressler Corp., Marquette, while the electrical went to S & T Electrical of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Both companies have offices in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. and are hiring local workers.

The big project needs much assistance from LSSU's Physical Plant crew, also.

"Just about everyone is involved in some part," Waligora said, noting that Paul Besteman, assistant director, is handling day-to-day operations on the construction site and Brad Newman, engineering assistant, pulls up drawings for utilities and other aspects of the construction on demand. Bill Thompson, grounds manager, makes sure the site is accessible for construction crews by taking care of snow removal and other grounds issues.

Waligora said the entire project is proceeding on schedule and he is looking forward to the day that he can hand over the building's keys to President Youngblood and LSSU faculty and staff.

A fine arts center is a vision that dates back to the era of LSSU President Kenneth Shouldice. The complex has seen several variations through the years before LSSU secured funding in 1999. The state is providing $8 million for the construction, while LSSU must contribute $7.3 million.

LSSU Foundation Director Dave Eitland said there are still many naming opportunities in the building to recognize major contributors. To find out how you can help, call the LSSU Foundation, 906-635-2665 or send a note to -LSSU-