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Powerhouse new timeline released; building will open January 2020

This week, Beloit College announced that the Powerhouse project will be completed in December of this year, and that the majority of the building is slated to open on Jan. 19, 2020, the day before the Spring 2020 semester begins. Full use of the facility’s running track will be available at the beginning of February 2020, and the fieldhouse will open in late March, according to Powerhouse Project Manager Dan Schoof.

Schoof spoke with the Round Table on Wed., Sept. 25 about the newly projected timeline, which is about six weeks longer than the most recent itinerary. The same announcement was made to the Beloit Daily News, which reported the new opening date on Sept. 26, as well as in an email to college faculty and administrators earlier in the week.

Schoof, who also serves as Secretary of the College and Chief of Staff at Beloit, told the Round Table that the “final push” in the construction of the new student union and athletic facility would come after Thanksgiving of this year. Thanksgiving had been the previously announced opening date for the Powerhouse. The staff heading the project are “certain enough now, as final pieces come together, including fire alarms, elevators, and et cetera, that [the construction company Corporate Contractors, Inc. will] deliver the building to us right around finals time this year,” Schoof said.

Thanksgiving 2019 had been the projected opening date since the beginning of last academic year. That date was announced in lieu of the beginning of the current Fall 2019 semester, which was the project team’s goal for completion when full funding was secured for the Powerhouse in April 2017.

Schoof explained that the Chicago-based company Matrix Engineering, which had been hired for structural engineering services by the Powerhouse’s lead architecture firm StudioGang Architects, went out of business just as construction began in Spring 2018. StudioGang Architects hired a new structural engineering company, Angus Young Architects, out of Janesville shortly thereafter. That hitch is what caused the initial delay, Schoof said, adding that he could think of “no one thing to point to [as a cause for the setback], other than that structural engineer being replaced.”

Now, Schoof is “nearly 100 percent confident” that every part of the historic former Blackhawk Generating Station will be ready for use when students return for classes in January. The Turf Fieldhouse, which is a new construction and is not part of the converted building, is slated on a slightly longer timeline. In addition, the new track will be installed mostly in the historic part of the facility, but is set to partially extend into the fieldhouse; the track isn’t expected to be fully functional until a few weeks into the Spring semester.

Facilities that are expected to be available in January include a swimming pool and locker rooms, an auditorium, batting cages, study rooms, and a 24-hour convenience store.

On Sept. 26, a student shared the Beloit Daily News article reporting the new opening date in the Beloit College Student Group on Facebook, and other students who commented on the post expressed frustration with a lack of clear communication regarding the project’s timeline. One student wrote that “the past like 5 years of graduating classes were told it would be open when they were seniors.”

Schoof conceded on Wed. that “people may not have always heard what we were saying, [and] maybe we weren’t saying it very well.”

He continued, “I had been talking to the construction team, saying, ‘when students get back at the start of the semester, let’s have some communication with them so they know [about where construction stands],’ and then these last three weeks or so, I’ve been, like, ‘hey, are we sure? Are we ready?’ And they were double and triple checking as well, so I’m pretty confident.” He mentioned that in order to strengthen communication with the student body, he plans to begin holding office hours in Java Joint on Wednesdays at 10 am.

Colder temperatures did not affect the pace of construction on the site last winter, Schoof said. This season’s heavy rains have slowed construction on the field house somewhat, he told the Round Table, and some water got into the site when parts of campus flooded earlier this month, but it was not severely affected. Schoof allowed that heavy snow in November and December might be “a thing to watch” as the crew puts up the steel frame for the fieldhouse and constructs its walls and roof.

A walk through the site this week found almost fully constructed or installed walls and windows, but that much of the construction remained underway. Still, by the end of this semester “the final tuning” of the construction will have taken place, Schoof said. He added that he had considered opening the facility gradually, “saying [to the construction team], ‘if you can get the pool open earlier, then let [the Beloit Swimming and Diving Team] have their early season there; if you can get something else, like the student center, open around Thanksgiving, then let’s do that,’” but ultimately, each component except for the track and field house will be ready for student use on the same date.

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