OREM -- From his first day as president of Utah Valley University, Matthew Holland had his bucket list of wishes ready to fill. At the very top of his priorities was a new science building.
On Friday, Holland helped turn the first shovel of dirt, breaking ground for that building.
"I couldn't be more excited," Holland said. "We want to be a serious institution."
Holland paid tribute to the many people who have made the building possible, including state and local leaders, but more importantly to the taxpayers.
"We had a vision built on the shoulders of many people who helped us fulfill the vision," said state Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem. "The first time I came to campus for a dedication was in 1987 for the Pope Science building. It was there I had a vision of the future. I wanted to be a part of this and to continue the vision."
While the science building was on the priority list for state legislators, getting the vote was not a shoe-in. One moment the project appeared dead, the next it was alive and kicking and back on the table being debated. When everything settled, both the Utah Senate and the House voted almost unanimously to fund the $31 million project, and the bill was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert.
"This is a red-letter day," Herbert said. "This is a work in progress. There is more to be done at this university. This will be a great return on our investment."
Herbert referred to the Business Facility Magazine, which helps businesses find places to relocate. "Utah is No. 1 in quality of life, second in education and third in business climate. It also says this is an excellent place to visit and an extraordinary place to live. With the science building, we're providing quality education for the rising generation."
When the Pope Science building was constructed, the college had about 8,000 students. The university currently has more than 20,000 students taking classes in that old building every semester. The student body is also expected to grow to approximately 45,000 students.
UVU student body president Richard Portwood spoke on behalf of current and future students.
"Thanks for recognizing the need," he said. "We are the second-largest university in the state; our students are crammed in classes and are stuffed into science lab closets in the current science building."
Portwood said students organized Haircuts in the Hall and Shoes for the Science Building fundraising events. "This shows our students' dedication to future students. Many of these students will never get to use the new building," he said.
Dean Sam Rushforth said he intends for the College of Science to become one of the best colleges in the United States. "We're going to become that. We want to share the vision of the future."
William Sederburg, former UVU president and current commissioner of higher education, said he was there to celebrate three things -- the quality of the faculty and incredible strength of the programs, the importance of science, and the leadership and courage of the Legislature, governor and their looking at the future.
Big D Construction was awarded the bid by the state in July for the construction and GSBS Architects of Salt Lake City did the design on the 160,000-square-foot structure. The building will have 27 laboratories, 12 state-of-the-art classrooms and a 400-seat auditorium (the largest on campus). It also will house faculty offices and support spaces for teaching general biology, botany, microscopy, physics, zoology, microbiology, anatomy, physiology and earth science.
"This is a very technical project and is an elaborate process," said Rob Moore, president of Big D Construction. "This is our third project at the university and our seventh science center in two years."
Moore thanked the numerous members of the larger community involved with the project, for providing opportunities for the construction industry and the courage to step up and build. "Right now is the time to build infrastructure in the state. By doing this we're also building students."
The science building is considered a "green" facility, which fits well with the school. It has a stainless steel and glass design and its location places it as the most visible academic building on campus. The building is projected to be finished Feb. 13, 2012.