Groundbreaking for new bond-funded Apodaca Science Building set for March 2

University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings and UNC Board of Governors Chair Lou Bissette are among the dignitaries expected to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for WCU’s new Tom Apodaca Science Building. (Architectural rendering provided by Lord Aeck Sargent)

Although ground technically was broken last summer during preliminary site preparation for a facility to replace Western Carolina University’s outdated Natural Sciences Building, a ceremonial groundbreaking officially marking the beginning of construction on the Tom Apodaca Science Building is set for Friday, March 2.

The event will begin at 2 p.m. in the courtyard of Hunter Library, immediately adjacent to the construction site. A reception will follow.

In addition to the building’s namesake, participants are expected to include WCU officials, University of North Carolina System President Margaret Spellings, UNC Board of Governors Chair Lou Bissette and current and former state legislators.

The $110 million replacement for WCU’s existing science building is part of the $2 billion statewide Connect NC bond package approved by voters in March 2016. The current building, constructed in the 1970s, lacks the space and the quality of laboratory facilities needed to adequately teach students in the burgeoning science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM) fields, WCU officials have said.

The WCU Board of Trustees voted in December 2016 to name the building in honor of former N.C. Sen. Thomas M. Apodaca in recognition of his years of service to and support of the Western North Carolina region and the university, including his time as a member of the WCU Board of Trustees and his advocacy for the Connect NC bond referendum. Apodaca is a 1980 graduate of Western Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Design work on the facility took place throughout 2017, with construction to begin this August, followed by completion and occupancy in June 2021. Demolition of the existing building and final landscaping should be finished by November 2021.

Last summer’s site preparation work for the building revealed portions of the university’s old Memorial Stadium. The football stadium was dedicated on Homecoming Day, Oct. 22, 1949, in memory of 26 students, alumni and employees who gave their lives in defense of the U.S. in World War II. To prepare for the eventual construction, crews also worked last summer to install utilities along Memorial Drive to the site, including larger water lines necessary to meet current fire and safety standards.

Those interested in attending the groundbreaking should RSVP to by Monday, Feb. 26.