LAYTON — After four years of asking, Weber State University will finally get its Davis campus expansion — and Hill Air Force Base is one of the biggest beneficiaries.
Gov. Gary Herbert held a ceremonial signing of legislation Wednesday that will largely finance the construction of the new facility at WSU's satellite Davis campus. The state will bond to cover $31.5 million of the estimated $40 million project.
"We cannot have long-term sustained economic growth in the state unless we have a robust and strong educational component," Herbert said before signing the bills, HB4 and SB5.
The 120,000-square-foot building will facilitate 1,500 college students and several hundred-charter high school students from the Northern Utah Academy of Math, Engineering and Science. (NUAMES)
Evening classes have filled WSU's current Davis campus building to the brim, with working professionals from Hill Air Force Base constituting a large percent of the nontraditional students pursuing one of the 9 master's degrees offered at the campus.
"There's a need for economic development and continued education for those working at Hill," said the senate sponsor of the two bills, Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton.
For the many HAFB employees enrolled in WSU's engineering program, the Davis campus is a viable option, Adams said. The campus is located less then a mile west of HAFB just off of state Road 193.
The building will also provide masters-level courses to Alliant Techsystems employees. ATK recently announced it will open a Davis County facility that will eventually add 800 jobs.
Adams also said the large number of students per square foot of space factored into his decision to advocate for a new building at the Davis campus. According to WSU, the campus serves the most number of students per square foot of space.
In addition to classroom space, the new building could also house laboratories, food services, fitness faculties and a small ballroom. For NUAMES junior Travis Crowe — who's braved cold and rain going from portable to portable — the building will be welcomed.
"We're a big family," Crowe said of his NUAMES counterparts. "It will give us that sense of home. I'm really, really excited."
NUAMES commitment of $5 million for the new building will help the school move many of its 400 students out of the 11 portables it currently uses.
The building is an early step toward WSU's long-term goal of erecting 10 buildings to serve 12,000 students at its 106-acre Davis campus, said Bruce Davis, WSU's vice provost. In fall 2010, 3,679 college students were enrolled at the Davis campus.
"It will allow us to meet significantly more need," said WSU President Ann Millner. "It's a great day to be a Wildcat. This is a huge celebration for this community."
The Legislature and Herbert also agreed to partially fund the building of another 3 facilities around the state and the renovation of the Freeport Warehouse. Of the $110 million needed to complete the projects, the bonding bills will provide $80 million.