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At last, no more waiting for Falcon Center

UW-River Falls celebrated the groundbreaking for the long-anticipated Falcon Center sports facility Friday, May 2. From left are: State Representative Dean Knudson, Student Senate President Tony Summnicht, UWRF Student Skyler Harmon, UWRF Student Logan Boettcher, Chancellor Dean Van Galen, Campus Planner Dale Braun, UW System representative Kate Sullivan, Campaign Chair Bill Boehm, State Senator Sheila Harsdorf, Ayers Associates Architect Raivo Balciunas and UWRF Foundation President Chris Mueller.1 / 3
Members of the Falcon Center fundraising committee are shown at the groundbreaking. From left are: Larry Solberg, Steve Stocker, Roger Ternes, Connie Foster, Mike Davis, Faye Perkins, Beth Schommer, Debbie James Timmerman and Chris Mueller.2 / 3
The UW-River Falls Recreation and Sports Facilities Staff were excited to celebrate the Falcon Center groundbreaking. From left are: Skyler Harmon, Charles Sowa, Terry Ekstrom, UWRF mascott Freddy the Falcon, Jennifer Loew, Steve Stocker, Michael Hoover and Tiffany Gaulke.3 / 3

UW-River Falls kicked off the largest building project in its history Friday, May 2, with a groundbreaking ceremony for the new $63.5 million sports facility dubbed the Falcon Center.

“The Falcon Center groundbreaking event was a great opportunity to recognize the many individuals who have worked tirelessly over two decades to make this facility a reality,” said UWRF Chancellor Dean Van Galen. “The Falcon Center will be a tremendous asset for the campus and the region, supporting academic programs, recreation and wellness, and UWRF athletics.”

Planning and state lobbying for the Falcon Center has been a work in progress. Often there wasn’t any progress.

The project’s timetable goes back at least 20 years.

Blake Fry, special assistant to the chancellor, was one of many happy people to see construction for the Falcon Center facility finally begin.

“This is just one of the happiest days, really, in the history of the university -- a true landmark that’s been a long time coming for us,” Fry said. “We’re thankful for all the support.

“For those who have donated financially to the project, those who support it with the Legislature, and those who have spent so much time planning -- this is going to be a truly transformational project for the university.”

A study first identified a need for improved indoor athletic facilities in 1994. UWRF has been working to get state funding for the project since the early 2000s.

While the money was approved several times, Fry said other UW projects moved ahead of the Falcon Center.

“That was really aggravating for us,” he said. “It was aggravating for the people in the region. It was aggravating for our elected officials of this area because they were supporting this project and they were equally frustrated.

“But finally we are able to have a governor in office who has supported the project and … some legislators who helped that cause, and that’s a big reason why that project is happening now.”

When complete, the Falcon Center will be a 162,300 square-foot building containing the Health and Human Performance programs, athletics and student recreation, and incorporate the existing Hunt Arena and Knowles center complex.

For more on this story, please see the May 8 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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