Cross and Blank: Aging UW facilities need repair, reinvestment

UW System President Ray Cross and Chancellor Rebecca Blank
UW System President Ray Cross and Chancellor Rebecca Blank

State legislators have an opportunity to meet Wisconsin’s workforce needs by approving projects that will modernize classrooms and laboratories for students, UW System President Ray Cross and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank told media members today at a press conference at Agricultural Hall.

Governor Tony Evers proposed more than $2.5 billion in his capital budget request, about half of which was for repair, renovation and replacement of buildings at UW System campuses. The fate of that proposal could come next week as the Joint Committee on Finance, the legislature’s budget-writing panel, is expected to take it up.

“These needs are the state’s needs,” Cross said of the projects, which include funds to restore and renovate Room 125 in Agricultural Hall, where the media availability took place.

“We are asking for these projects to be included in the final version of the state budget, so that we can move forward with improving important learning spaces for our students,” Blank said.

Cross said 60 percent of the UW System’s physical infrastructure is between 45 and 70 years old, and a number of facilities “are coming to the end of their natural lives at the same time.

The Ag Hall space is even older than that. Built in 1903, Agricultural Hall’s Room 125, the 588-seat lecture hall largest on campus. It’s primarily used for STEM-related classes: Microbiology, Biochemistry, Math, Nutritional Science, and Economics. The request in the capital budget request calls for $3.14 million to restore finishes, upgrade audio visual, lighting, HVAC systems, and replace furnishings, while also maintaining its historic character, as it is on the National Register of Historic Spaces.

Aging chairs in 125 Ag Hall
Aging chairs in 125 Ag Hall

In addition to the Ag Hall project, Blank highlighted other UW-Madison buildings included in Evers’ budget recommendation — expansion and renovation of the School of Veterinary Medicine, renovation and expansion of Sellery Hall, replacement of the Natatorium, and renovations to the Kohl Center and Camp Randall. A third of the Vet Med project would be funded by donor dollars, with the rest coming from state supported bonding. The rest of the projects — Sellery, Natatorium, Kohl and Camp Randall — would be funded from program revenue and not require state dollars, Blank said.

“In fact, several are supported by donor dollars that may not be available if they do not move ahead,” Blank said. “In short, we have the money and these renovations have to take place. All we need is approval by the state.”

Links to media coverage of the press conference can be found below.

Associated Press: Cross, Blank make case for University of Wisconsin buildings

Wisconsin State Journal: ‘Kicking the can down the road’: UW-Madison, System make case for building projects money

Wisconsin Public Radio: UW System Officials Make Case For UW Capital Budget

WKOW: Cross makes case for UW capital budget