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ECC opens new equine, energy centers

By Staff | Jun 3, 2010

A new show arena is the main attraction at Ellsworth Community College’s new equine science center. The arena is expected to allow the school to expand curriculum, as well as attract horse shows.

IOWA FALLS – Just under two years after turning the first spade of dirt for its new equine facility and agriculture, renewable energy center, dignitaries and friends of Ellsworth Community College gathered in Iowa Falls May 26 to commemorate a new chapter for the school.

“When we started thinking about this project we asked for the support of you, the local residents,” said Larry Johnson, an organizer of the Vision 21 Campaign that managed the project. “You responded with your talent and with your funding support to the extent that we are standing here today.”

About 75 percent of the multimillion dollar project was supplied by private funding including part of a $35 million bond issue approved by Iowa Valley Community College District voters in 2006.

Roger Nissly noted in his comments that private funds had been projected to account for just 40 percent of the total construction and development costs.

The new facility includes an equine show ring and viewing area large enough to host large scale riding events as well as bedding, grooming and feeding area for 155 horses and their riders.

The equestrian program, which had been growing beyond its aging original facilities focuses on multiple aspects of horse science and culture including breeding, nutrition and training.

The adjoining Agriculture & Renewable Energy Center includes five reconfigurable classroom areas as well as state-of-the-art biotech laboratory facilities, a library computer lab and student lounge.

The placement of the new buildings together and away from the main Ellsworth campus is intended to create a centralized location for the school’s equestrian, animal science and renewable energy programs.

“This facility is a huge selling point that makes recruiting students a little bit easier,” said Pat Hosch, an Ellsworth professor of animal science. “Students, especially for the equine program, come from all over the country and many of them will come here to Ellsworth because it’s big and clean and large and new.”

Together the facilities of the new Robert & Arlene Hamilton Campus are expected to allow the equine program to more than double in size, from serving 30 students to 70 or more in the future.

The equine building itself is already scheduled to host 42 weekend events in 2010.

“These buildings are primarily for students,” Johnson said. “We are proud to attract shows and the visitors they bring to our area, but the main thrust of this project is to provide a technologically up to date facility for the development of our students.”

New technological facilities include the biotech lab, two reconfigurable workspaces for private industry and “clean room” specially outfitted for cell culturing and research.

“This lab is something that is unique even for a four-year university and even more so for a community college,” said Nihal Behrens, a Ellsworth professor of biotechnology and renewable energy. “Our students leave prepared to work in forensics, biotechnology, DNA and protein applications and this gives us more ability to prepare them for a job, or to go on to a four-year university.”

The energy center also houses a standard weight and measurement calibration facility.

Measurement calibration, or metrology, will begin as an on-site service of the university and is hoped to be developed into a full-scale academic program by the fall of 2011.

Visitors said they were generally impressed with the new facility and optimistic about its benefits for Iowa Falls and other local communities.

“It’s a fabulous facility. It’s going to help Iowa Falls and bring a lot of people in on the weekends,” said Bob Friest, a Hubbard resident. “I’ve been all over to Wyoming and Colorado and they are talking about this facility.

“Kids talking about coming here to Ellsworth.”

Area residents Barton and Julie Shriver, of Alden, plan to send their daughter to Ellsworth in the fall of 2010. The couple said they planned to support the equine shows, as well as the scholastic value of the new facility, and said they were generally happy with the product of tax contributions.

“It’s a nice facility that is going to draw more kids and draw more shows,” Julie said. “Horse show people aren’t afraid of traveling. So once it gets known it will be a big thing.”

You can contact Kevin Stillman by e-mail at stillman.kw@gmail.com.

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