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'Exciting' new science center is ready for construction at BHSU

Black Hills State University in Spearfish has partnered with the Sanford underground lab in Lead to create a cutting-edge science education center at BHSU's Jonas Hall. (Artists rendering/BHSU)

The construction project to renovate Jonas Hall into a leading-edge center for science teaching at Black Hills State University in Spearfish received approval Monday to seek bids from general contractors.

The new Sanford Science Education Center will be part of the $4.2 million project. Philanthropist T. Denny Sanford donated $2.5 million toward the work.

The center will connect via videoconferencing with the Sanford Underground Research Facility in the historic Homestake gold mine at Lead.

The bid deadline for the Jonas Hall project is May 29. Construction at the university is scheduled to begin June 12 of this year and be completed in about 18 months.

The work is planned for seven phases with specific start and completion dates for each phase. Faculty members will switch from one part of the building to the other during Christmas break.

"The campus needs to hit those dates for their classroom instruction," regent Terry Baloun of Highmore said.

The final phase is set for completion Oct. 30, 2015.

BHSU President Kay Schallenkamp, who is retiring this spring, said the project is "exciting."

The bid documents include five alternate features that could be used depending on the actual costs.

"It's a fairly conservative approach," said Kathy Johnson, BHSU vice president for finance and administration.

A new visitor center overlooking Homestake's open-cut mining area is also moving forward in Lead.