Lory Student Center

‘It’s going to be awe-inspiring’

By Tony Phifer

CSU Alum Leading Project to Build Bigger,
Better Lory Student Center

As the renovation and expansion of Colorado State University’s Lory Student Center continued through the bitter cold of January and February, it was difficult to visualize a finished product, let alone a grand building in the heart of campus.

Massive I-beams stood in solitude, stripped of the walls that had stood since the building first arose in 1962. Dirt that wasn’t covered by snow had turned into thick, brown mud. And giant sheets of plastic covered the bulk of the project, offering little hint of progress to curious onlookers.

The scheduled opening in fall semester seemed far, far away.

Bill Bialek, though, could see through all of the mud and the snow and the emptiness. And he very much liked what he saw.

“It’s going to be awe-inspiring,” he said.

Bialek is the project superintendent for Saunders Construction, Inc., the company chosen to complete the most substantial renovation in the 52-year history of the LSC. He is, in every possible way, the perfect person for the job.

A 2001 graduate of CSU’s Department of Construction Management, Bialek used his education as a springboard into a leadership position at Saunders. Not only that, he is a Fort Collins native who grew up just blocks from campus. His connection to CSU and this project runs much deeper than that it does in your average guy in a hardhat.

“Given the complexity of a project of this magnitude, having a superintendent that you believe in and know has the best interests of the campus community at heart is crucial,” said Mike Ellis, the LSC’s executive director. “We have tremendous confidence in Bill’s leadership, and the fact that he’s one of our own makes this project even more special.”

When Bialek and his crew of up to 300 workers complete this $70 million project, the LSC will include 160,000 square feet of renovated space and an additional 40,000 square feet. The 16-month process will include improving existing infrastructure, replacing the 50-year-old mechanical systems with energy-efficient systems and expanding and beautifying the building.

The project did not lack for challenges. Bialek said much of the original infrastructure is being reinforced with fiber reinforced polymer (FRP), saving millions of dollars in steel replacement costs. Also, lots of asbestos was discovered and had to be removed.

“I believe we’ll be using the most FRP of any building in North America, so that has been a big part of the project,” he said. “There were also a number of surprises – including evidence of lots of undocumented remodels. Some of the floors looked like lasagna, there were so many layers.”

Still, the project remains on schedule. When completed, student groups will have significantly more space and be more centralized. The new ballroom space will be surrounded by windows, allowing for more natural light. And the food court will include new entries.

Bialek is most excited about the grand entrance on the LSC’s south side, and the glass walls in the new ballroom that will provide unobstructed views to the west.

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