College breaks ground on center

Published 5:19 pm Thursday, August 6, 2009

A line of individuals representing a stake in the new Bainbridge College student wellness center turned a shovel full of dirt Thursday where it will be erected.

BC President Tom Wilkerson said the building will change the face of the campus forever.

“I have been quoted fairly widely in the press that this building will change fundamentally and forever the face of Bainbridge College, and you know what, that’s absolutely true,” Wilkerson said. “We are beginning a process today that will in fact begin to meet a promise we made 34 to 36 years ago, because the promise of this institution was to provide a quality education to everyone who comes to us. … This building will allow us to live more fully into that promise. It’s an unbroken promise. I don’t see it going away.”

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The approximately 80,000-square-foot building is expected to take 14 months to complete, although Wilkerson kept jokingly lobbying for the completion date to be pushed up from the first part of November 2010 to a milestone birthday he said he is having in June 2010.

The two-story student wellness center includes a gymnasium that will seat 2,500 persons, which is enough room for the college to host its own graduation ceremonies, Wilkerson had said.

The building also has a second-floor suspended jogging track, a 140-seat dining room and food court, a 2,000-square-foot game room and a 4,000-square-foot fitness center furnished with approximately 40 cardiovascular machines and 40 weight-training stations.

On July 23, the bond sale was completed, and the $25 million was deposited in the bank for the construction project. The debt will be paid back through a $125 fee each BC student must pay each semester.

This building, along with several others building or expansion projects at the main campus in Bainbridge and the Early County site, as well as a proposed 10,000-square-foot academic building that will be in the planning stages soon, will effectively double the college’s space in five years.

Wilkerson said when the college opened in October 1973, it had 214 students.

This fall, the college may break the 3,500-enrollment mark. Projections are to have more than 7,000 students by 2020.

“We will position ourselves to meet that demand in a decade,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson also reminded the audience that this has only been the second ground-breaking ceremony in more than five years.

Wilkerson said he believed construction of the student wellness center would go more smoothly than that of the Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center. The building was dedicated five years and four months after its ground-breaking ceremony. The Kirbo Center was plagued with problems, and major portions of it had to be demolished and rebuilt.

“We have a world-class, not a first-class, but a world-class team assembled to bring this project off,” said Wilkerson of the student wellness center.

The team

One of the members of the new team is a familiar face in Bainbridge—Bill Weldon, president of Allstate Construction of Tallahassee, Fla.

Weldon was the contractor who is credited with “fixing” the Kirbo Center and part of a joint venture that built the new Bainbridge High School.

“We just love working for you guys here in the Bainbridge area. There are great folks here to work with,” Weldon said. “There is something special about this area.”

Another key component of the team is the manager of the project, which will oversee the construction of the building and its $25 million budget—Jones, Lang and LaSalle of Atlanta, Ga.

Kevin McDowell said a project such as this doesn’t happen by accident.

“This team has worked individually as exceptional individuals along the way, but as a team, they have done it as a true team.”

Steve Dehekker, a member of the Hastings and Chivetta Architects from St. Louis, Mo., said the vision of the building was really a response: “A response to the mission of Bainbridge College and the everyday needs of the student is why this project is occurring.”

Some of the design components are that the building will be timeless, solid and transparent.

“We saw a building with no backside because it can be seen and approached from many directions,” Dehekker said.

Georgia Board of Regents member Doreen Poitevint also spoke.

“My pride in Bainbridge College continues to grow along with the growth of this great institution,” Poitevint said. “Today we break ground on the new student wellness center, which will house and expand student activity programs.”