One step closer

Pellissippi State Blount campus celebrates ‘raising the roof’

The last beam was placed Friday afternoon on the new building for the Pellissippi State Blount County campus but Peggy McCord won’t be happy until the last dollar is raised to equip the $22 million facility so students can start classes.

McCord, co-chair for the campaign to raise $2 million to outfit the facility, said many had been looking forward to the day when the final beam would be placed on the building. She gave an update on how much had been raised to equip the new school. “I’m pretty happy for all we’ve raised, but not satisfied. We are at $1.85 million,” she said.

McCord said there will be a need for even more money to fund the nursing program and the marketing program. “We need great technology and a great facility to go with great teachers. This is our campus. Pellissippi is our community campus, and we need each of you to step up,” she said.

The building sits on 40 acres near Friendsville just off West Lamar Alexander Parkway. More than 100 people showed to hear a presentation on the progress of the project and to take tours after the final truss was placed in the roof.

President Allen Edwards was happy with the progress on the building. “This is just a great day. This facility would not be a reality without the tremendous support of our state and local officials,” he said. “They have been battling for us to get the money for this, and I thank all of you. I thank each and everyone who has supported this. Your donations have made this possible.”

Edwards said in August, 1,000 students will be walking through the doors of the new building. The new campus comes at a good time for the college, which saw enrollment grow from 8,000 total students at all three campuses in fall of 2008 and to 10,200 this fall. “We’ve already made plans to accommodate growth,” he said of infrastructure for portable classrooms being placed at the Blount campus.

Don Shell with Community Tectonics, the architect for the 70,000 square feet facility, said the structure faces north and south to take advantage of the sun and a good view. There will be 300 parking spaces on one side of the building, a green space and 300 more parking spaces on the other side of the building. The Northeast entrance facing West Lamar Alexander Parkway is the main entrance to the school with all three entrances flowing into the center of the building where there is an elevator and a circular stairway, a dining area with seating and the bookstore.

The eastern side of the structure will house the manufacturing department along with auditorium, game room, library, math tutor area and classrooms. The second floor will have labs, classrooms and facilities for microbiology and nursing.

“We hope this will be very exciting for Blount County,” Shell said. “We’re anxious to show back up here in nine months and see this for real.”

Groups toured the facility and saw different aspects of where students will be attending classes, using labs and utilizing library and common areas. Realtor Meredith Liemohn said the facility would be an important tool for economic development. “It will be good for industry to educate our workforce,” she said. “That’s what industry needs -- an educated workforce.”

Jerome Moon has spearheaded the move to build the campus and said setting the final beam was another step on the journey to making the campus a reality. “It’s Blount County’s version of the (Boeing) Dreamliner,” he said. “It’s going to take people a lot of places they never thought they could go.”

Moon the said new facility would have more lab space than the Hardin Valley main campus and the manufacturing training facilities would have room for welding, which isn’t available on the current Blount campus. The new facility also will be able to change as industries’ needs change. “It’s very flexible,” he said. “It can be adjusted to meet industry trends and needs.”

Maryville High School principal Mike Casteel said he was very impressed with the new facility. “It will definitely open up windows of opportunity for students in Blount County,” he said.

Holly Burkett, assistant dean of the Blount County campus, was impressed with progress in construction. “It’s great, it’s gorgeous. I think the ones who are the most excited are the Blount County faculty and staff,” she said. “They’ve been working in an old building for 18 years, and they’re excited about the opportunity this brings.”

Allen Edwards spoke after the tours about the progress. “It’s great to see it come out of the ground. We have been talking about it and fighting for it for 17 years,” Edwards said. “It has been something I kept putting back on the books year after year until we finally got it.”

State Rep. Joe McCord said funding for the project very nearly was scraped but lawmakers were able to get it through the budget process even though it was on the fiscal “chopping block” last year up until the last day of the state legislative session as state sales tax revenues were beginning to dwindle. “It’s been needed for some time. We’re very, very fortunate,” he said. “We didn’t realize how small the window of opportunity was we had to get this in. We are very fortunate we got it.”

Ralph and Dorothy Petree who sold the property to the college for the new building toured the construction.

“I think it’s great. I’m really excited about it,” said Dorothy Petree, a retired school teacher. “We’ve needed this for years. This will be good for a lot of people.”

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