Higher education: CBC, WSU Tri-Cities celebrate new buildings, plan for the future

Columbia Basin College and Washington State University Tri-Cities each completed a major addition in the past year. The construction crews have moved on, but the two schools are busy contemplating what they need to serve the higher education needs of the Mid-Columbia.

Columbia Basin College in Pasco debuted its Student Recreation and Wellness Center in late May. WSU Tri-Cities in Richland opened its latest academic building, Collaboration Hall, in late 2021.

Both campuses reopened to in-person classes in November 2021 after the pandemic forced them to operate remotely.

Columbia Basin College

When students returned to campus in late 2021, there was still about six months of construction left on the $35 million recreation building on the south side of campus. Pandemic-related slowdowns prevented it from opening on time, but by the following spring, it was ready.

In 2018, the CBC student body voted to support the project by agreeing to levy a $50 per quarter fee on future students. The project replaced a gym that was in its seventh decade.

It is a significant upgrade for students and staff. CBC enrolled 7,280 students in spring 2022, of which 3,920 were full-time students.

As users get acquainted with the new recreation center and its myriad of amenities for athletes, administrators are pursuing funds for the other projects identified in a 2017 master plan drafted by the Columbia Basin College Foundation.

Next on its list is an update to the school library and a new agriculture facility.

Renovating the school library will cost about $3.1 million, said Rebekah Woods, CBC’s president.

CBC also has submitted the agriculture building through the Community and Technical College System.

Woods hopes funding will be approved within the next six years.

CBC has an operating budget of $59 million, said Elizabeth Burtner, CBC’s interim assistant vice president for communications and external relations.

The new recreation center is worth celebrating.

Construction began in September 2020 with the removal of the tennis courts on the south side of campus.

RGU Architecture and Planning was the design firm. Lydig Construction was the general contractor.

The 80,000-square-foot, two-story athletic and exercise facility is packed with amenities catering to all types of activity, from a weight room and fitness center to basketball courts and a video gaming “esports” room with low lighting and 12 stations.

All CBC students and staff can use it.

The esports lounge is a new addition to the recreation lineup. To get it right, Scott Rogers, athletic director, and his team traveled to Boise to observe an esports competition between University of Nevada and Boise State University.

The new building features:

  • Team meeting rooms overlooking the main court.
  • A lounge where players can eat and rest.
  • A computer lounge.
  • Offices for coaches.
  • A balcony overlooking the CBC soccer field.
  • A 12,000-square-foot fitness center.
  • Weight room.
  • Bigger locker rooms with private shower stalls.

Three large gymnasiums accommodate indoor soccer, pickleball, basketball, a practice gym and Holden Court, a 1,300-seat court named for Cheryl Holden, CBC women’s basketball coach who led the program to four Northwest Athletic Conference championships during her 2001-14 tenure as coach.

Holden is currently CBC’s vice president of student services.

The Northwest Athletic Conference, which oversees community college athletics in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, selected CBC to host its men’s and women’s basketball championships each for the next three years. The tournaments are held in March.

Dave Hickman, of the CBC Department of Enterprise Services, oversaw construction on land already owned by CBC.

The new facility coupled with student-focused housing at Sunhawk Hall nearby could help CBC attract more student-athletes.

Student-athlete numbers rose this fall to 185 from 165.

Columbia Basin College’s $35 million Student Recreation Center is a 80,000-square-foot, two-story, athletic and exercise facility that’s nearly double the size of the
old gymnasium and recreation center it replaced. (Photo by Jeff Morrow)

The public may get a chance to use the building in the future. However, Rogers wants current CBC students whose fees are paying the bond debt associated with construction to get the first crack.

“I’ve been inundated with requests to open up the facility,” he said.

CBC held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in September.

Another CBC highlight occurred in March 2022, when Battelle, which operates Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, awarded the CBC Foundation a $57,000 grant to buy 48 Nikon Eclipse Ei digital microscopes.

The microscopes support life science studies for students in nursing, medical assisting, phlebotomy, pre-med and related programs.

WSU Tri-Cities

WSU Tri-Cities is still celebrating its most recent addition, Collaboration Hall. The $30 million academic building opened on Sept. 27, 2021.

As the name indicates, the 40,000-square-foot building is designed with collaboration in mind, with plenty of space for students and faculty to gather.

The design is winning national recognition.

Washington State University Tri-Cities’ didn’t have any major capital projects in 2022, but it did receive
a national design award for its most recent addition – Collaboration Hall. (Courtesy WSU Tri-Cities)

In August 2022, the Design-Build Institute of America named it one of 30 winners of its 2022 National Design-Build Project Team/Awards. Collaboration Hall was a “merit” winner in the education facilities.

It is now under consideration for the National Award of Excellence and Project of the Year at the DBIA’s upcoming conference, to be held in November in Las Vegas.

The building contains classrooms as well as labs for physics, biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, geology and other disciplines. There is an open lobby dominated by a wooden staircase that doubles as theater seating.

Outside, the building fronts a new amphitheater and the latest artwork installed at the Richland campus, a cougar sculpture.

ZGF Architecture of Portland and Hoffman Construction built the project, which was funded by the state.

WSU Tri-Cities reported an 8.2% drop in total enrollment between fall 2021 and fall 2022, to 1,430 students from 1,558.

First-year and transfer students declined by 7.7% and 1.8%, respectively. WSU Tri-Cities said its population consists of 50% students of color and 46% first-generation college students.

The branch campus’ operating budget for the 2022-23 school year is $22 million.

Beyond Richland, WSU Tri-Cities agreed to work with the Port of Benton to offer wine and culinary education at the newly reopened Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser in late 2021. The center fell vacant after the previous operator shut down, prompting the port to seek a new partner.

Too, WSU Tri-Cities and Washington River Protection Solutions are teaming to create a cooperative work experience program to prepare students to be the next generation employees for WRPS.

The collaboration provides academic and professional opportunities for growth and development while helping selected students build the skills necessary for full-time employment with WRPS post-graduation.

As part of the partnership, WRPS donated $250,000 to WSU Tri-Cities.

Up to 10 students will receive full-time paid summer employment and continue working part time during the school year in their chosen fields.

The 2022-23 cohort consists of six students studying computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, and environmental and ecosystems sciences. l

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