Macomb, IL – The start of construction is still months away, but Western Illinois University nonetheless broke ground on Tuesday, April 26 for its Performing Arts Center.
President Al Goldfarb, who received a standing ovation before he spoke during the ceremony, said it's taken a long time for the project to reach this point.
"I've seen drawings that go back to the 1970s. So it is amazing how long this project has taken," Goldfarb said.
Goldfarb thanked former WIU administrator Tate Lindahl, who is providing a major contribution to help maintain the building.
"Tate has committed a very significant, seven-figure bequest that will underwrite the maintenance of the Performing Arts Center," Goldfarb said. "It is a remarkable bequest and it is a remarkable commitment to this facility."
Lindahl also received a standing ovation from the crowd that nearly filled the main floor of the COFAC Recital Hall.
The Performing Arts Center will include a 1,400 seat auditorium, a 250-seat thrust stage, and a 150-seat studio theater.
The design phase is underway. The state is expected to seek bids later this year.
Governor Pat Quinn, who flew into Macomb for the ceremony, said this will be the Capital Development Board's largest project. The state will spend $67.8 million to build the center.
"We want to have the best arts program possible, and to have a facility that not only helps the students and their teachers and the staff here at the university, but also involves the entire community. Not just in Macomb and McDonough County but all of western Illinois," Quinn said.
Quinn said the project will create 400 construction jobs. He also said the building will contain some energy efficiency and environmentally friendly design aspects. It is hoped the building will achieve LEED silver certification.
After the indoor announcements and speeches, the ceremony moved outside, where dignitaries dug shovels into the rain soaked ground at the future site of the arts center.
This will be the first new building on the Macomb campus paid for with state dollars since Malpass Library, which opened on September 5, 1978.