Fort Lewis College will get its new Health Sciences Center after all despite the economic chaos caused this year by COVID-19.
Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill Tuesday providing funding for higher education capital construction projects at three state colleges and universities, including Fort Lewis College’s $32.9 million Health Sciences Center.
The bill creates a lease agreement to provide $26.6 million in state funding for the project. FLC will be required to contribute about $3.3 million for the building and those funds have already been raised through fundraising, according to a news release issued by Lauren Savage, FLC spokeswoman.
The FLC Foundation has been fundraising the $3.3 million through donations, grants and partnerships.
In April 2020, the Schlessman Family Foundation gave $2 million to FLC for the Health Sciences Center. The gift, the largest in FLC history, completed the local match required to receive the state funding.
FLC was awarded its first piece of state funding in 2018, a little more than $3 million, for design costs.
The bill Polis signed, Senate Bill 20-219, came out of the Capital Development Committee and the Joint Budget Committee of the Colorado General Assembly and provides a lease agreement to fund construction.
“We are so grateful to the Capital Development Committee and Joint Budget Committee for their leadership in coming up with a creative solution. Their support is so appreciated by our community,” said FLC President Tom Stritikus in the news release.
The bill’s lease agreement takes advantage of low-interest rates and direct funding to provide financing not only for FLC but also for buildings at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University.
Total funding provided in the bill for all three schools was $65.5 million.
The Health Sciences Center will provide an advanced academic research and teaching hub that will include both new facilities and revamped spaces in Whalen Gymnasium.
The Health Sciences Department is the largest and fastest-growing department on campus, but current spaces in Whalen Gymnasium and Skyhawk Hall are inadequate – leaving classes, labs and offices using cramped and inadequate facilities.
Health sciences offers programs in health and well-being, nutrition science, public health, exercise science, physical therapy and sports administration. It is key to the college as it strives to be the regional center for public health education, health science and high-altitude study and training in athletics.
With COVID-19 slowing the economy, Stritikus said construction will help the region.
“The timing couldn’t be better for the HSC to be funded,” he said. “A building this size will bring jobs and economic vitality to our region, as well as significant growth in the health sciences.”
Work on the Health Sciences Center is expected to start during the 2020-21 academic year with ground-breaking possible as soon as September.