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Top 10: UWRF says goodbye to Karges Center, proposes SciTech

The scoreboard and basketball backboards inside UW-River Falls' R.A. Karges Center were visible from Cascade Avenue as deconstruction of the 58-year-old building continued Friday, June 8. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
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Editor's note: This story is part of a series looking back at some of the biggest stories of 2018. Find the rest of the series here: Top Ten 2018.


Those visiting or passing the UW-River Falls campus probably noticed some construction over the past year, and some is yet to come. One of the largest projects completed recently was the construction of the Falcon Center and removal of the Karges Center.

One large proposed project would be the construction of a new science facility, known as SciTech.

Karges/Falcon center

One of UW-River Falls' most recognizable buildings on Cascade Avenue, R.A. Karges Center, was torn down in June after the opening of the Falcon Center for Health, Education and Wellness in Fall 2017.

The 58 year-old Karges Center had served as the home for the university's Health and Human Performance and Athletics departments, as well as many of its athletic teams, since 1960, but a 1994 comprehensive analysis determined the building to be substandard. A concerted planning effort for a replacement facility occurred in 1999 and involved UW-River Falls, University of Wisconsin System Administration and the Division of State Facilities.

The proposed building project was included in the UW System's 2001-03, 2003-05, 2005-07, 2007-09, and 2009-11 biennial capital budget requests before receiving a commitment to future funding as part of the 2011-13 biennial budget. Groundbreaking for the Falcon Center occurred in May 2014 and the facility opened in August 2017, leading to the "deconstruction" of R.A. Karges Center. The site where the building once stood will become green space for student and university use.

The legacy of Professor R. A. Karges, who served as a faculty member and basketball coach at UW-RF in the early 1900s lives on in the Falcon Center's R.A. Karges Auxiliary Gym.


UWRF has proposed a new Science and Technology Innovation Center, or SciTech, which would take UWRF's science labs "into the future," according to UWRF communications and marketing director Dina Fassino.

"It's a facility that really supports and encourages interdisciplinary teaching and learning," Fassino said.

SciTech has been proposed and it's funding included in the UW system's 2019-2021 biennial budget, which will be reviewed by Gov.-elect Tony Evers after he takes office, said UWRF Executive Assistant to the Chancellor Beth Schommer, as well as the Joint Finance Committee.

If the SciTech facility funding remains on the budget and is approved, SciTech would be built on the site of Hagestad Hall, which would be torn down to make way for the new building.

Schommer said the SciTech building is needed because the university, while it has labs in buildings like the Ag Science building and Centennial Science Hall, does not have a science lab facility. The new facility would house all science labs. Classrooms and offices would remain where they are. Removing labs from the their current locations would allow other departments some much-needed expansion, Schommer said.

Hagestad Hall was built in the late 1950s, said Schommer. She said UWRF had a study done to see if the building could be retrofitted or remodeled, but it was not built in a way that would make it suitable for renovating to modern standards, especially to meet safety requirements for use as a lab facility.

Instead, Hagestad Hall would be torn down to make way for SciTech.

The new facility will include:

• 72,230 square feet of space, 12,590 of which will be for shared, interdisciplinary space.

• 12 instructional labs

• Labs for biology, chemistry, physics, psychology and neuroscience

• 32 undergraduate research spaces

• Space for collaboration between students and staff businesses for things like research, prototyping, fabrication and more.

The facility is projected to cost an estimated $111 million, if it is approved. The proposed funding on the 2019-2021 budget would support planning. If approved, funds would be requested in the 2021-2023 biennial budget for construction of the facility.

Schommer said many area businesses and organizations have sent UWRF letters of support for the SciTech center, including:

• River Falls Chamber of Commerce

• Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce

• New Richmond Chamber of Commerce

• Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce

• City of River Falls

• Polk County EDC

• Pierce County Board of Supervisors

• Momentum West

• Pierce County EDC

• River Falls EDC

• St. Croix EDC

• UWRF Faculty Senate

• UWRF Academic Staff Council

• UWRF University Staff Senate

• UWRF Student Senate

Many offices now in Hagestad Hall would be moved to the new Rodli Center, and classrooms currently in Hagestad Hall would be moved to the new SciTech facility.

Other projects

UWRF has quite a few other ongoing projects on campus, including:

• The Rodli Center. Construction is underway on this updated facility, and expected to be complete in 2020. Rodli Hall used to be the dining hall before the University Center was built. The inside of the building is being entirely redone, and should be in use by January 2020, Schommer said. This facility will house student services like admissions, the career center, undergraduate research, the honors program, Falcon Scholars, the Center for Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, financial aid, health and counseling, veterans services, tutoring services, and more.

• The Dairy Pilot Plant is being renovated. Renovations have already begun, and should be complete by Spring 2019. Before renovations began, the Dairy Pilot Plant produced extra products such as cheese and ice cream and stored them in deep freezes. These are being sold now, such as ice cream at Freddy's Dairy Bar. Freddy's Dairy Bar is also supplementing with ice cream from other suppliers.

• Abbott Concert Hall is also undergoing renovations and should be open in the spring. Like the dairy bar, it is not in use while it is being renovated.