Gov. Evers Backs $109 Million for First Phase of New UWEC Science Hall

Tom Giffey, photos by UW-Eau Claire News |

UW-Eau Claire's Phillips Hall
UW-Eau Claire's Phillips Hall

UW-Eau Claire has the backing of Wisconsin’s new governor in its drive to build a new science hall.

During a visit to campus Thursday, Gov. Tony Evers announced he was including $109 million for the project in his 2019-21 capital budget. The funding would pay for the first phase of a replacement for Phillips Hall, which is more than 50 years old and which the university says is woefully outdated.

While construction of the new Science and Health Sciences Building would be paid for by the state, the facility would house privately funded research space that will allow undergraduates to collaborate with Mayo Clinic Health System researchers.

“This partnership embodies the Wisconsin Idea, benefiting not only students but the communities they go on to serve after graduation,” Evers said. “The state’s investment will leverage taxpayer dollars to support the Chippewa Valley’s emergence as a health care innovation hub, while also investing in a visionary campus that is tackling some of the most pressing health care and technology issues facing rural Wisconsinites.”

UWEC Chancellor James Schmidt said replacing Phillips Hall has been his No. 1 priority since he arrived on campus in 2013.

 Gov. Tony Evers
Gov. Tony Evers in Eau Claire, March 7, 2019

“I know that Gov. Evers has seen the necessity of replacing Phillips Hall and also recognizes the effect this investment will have on our campus and the state,” Schmidt said. “Beyond providing for state-of-the-art laboratory spaces, the Science and Health Sciences Building project positions UW-Eau Claire and Mayo Clinic Health System to focus resources on producing the next generation of health care providers and researchers.”

The $109 million requested by Evers would pay for the first phase on the project. UWEC and the UW System are also hoping for another $147.15 million in the 2021-23 capital budget, bringing the total funding request to $256.15 million.

After the governor’s capital budget is formally introduced to the state Legislature, it will go to the State Building Commission. From there, it will require approval from the Joint Finance Commission (which is made up of Republican and Democratic lawmakers from both houses), the state Assembly, and the state Senate, before return to Evers’ desk.

Replacing Phillips Hall has been a goal of UWEC for years, and was included in the Campus Master Plan published in 2011. According to a UWEC press release from last August ...

Phillips Hall was built in two phases in 1963 and 1966. The following are among the findings of a new science building feasibility study that considered the needs of all affected UW-Eau Claire academic departments as well as feedback from their faculty and students:

• Phillips Hall is too small to accommodate existing academic demand.

• Labs housed in the building cannot accept donations of new equipment without removing existing, functional equipment.

• The aged facility is grossly inefficient: Of the 33 buildings maintained by the university’s facilities department, roughly 27 percent of all annual work hours are spent addressing leaks and equipment issues in Phillips Hall. This is, in part, because the building’s envelope is severely compromised and its design prevents easy repairs.