Twin ribbon cuttings mark KPC expansion

SOLDOTNA — As several hundred people crowded around, waiting to get into the glass, steel and aluminum space housing the Kenai Peninsula College — Kenai River Campus’ new Career and Technical Education Center, Spencer Litzenberger had a different idea.

The Blazy Construction Inc. worker knows the new building intimately as he’s been with the $15.25 million project since the company broke ground on the building in summer of 2013.

“I’m very proud of it; I just don’t ever want to see it again,” he said, with a laugh.

Still, despite his aversion to being in the building, Litzenberger has no problem recalling his favorite spots inside where the sun streams through full-windowed walls, bounces off the exposed steel frame and gives a sense of openness to the nearly 20,000 foot space.

“The architecture is really amazing, the industrial look,” he said. “It’s great to see the building finally come to fruition.”

With the large number of visiting dignitaries, it took two ceremonial ribbon-cuttings to acknowledge everyone who helped bring to fruition space that will house process technology, industrial instrumentation and computer electronics workforce development programs.

During the opening ceremony, Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, recalled his days at the college and said it is important for people to understand how attractive a graduate from the college’s technical education programs is to Alaskan employers, as they can “hit the ground running.”

“I only hire those that have graduated from the process tech program,” he said. “They come ready to go; some of our top employees came right out of this program.”

After the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the new technical center, most of the crowd made their way to the college’s new residence hall where another 40,000 foot building will house nearly 100 students.

Penny Vadla, longtime community member and adjunct English professor at the college, said she thought the building was going to entice more students to stay in the area.

The center has three classrooms, labs for computer electronics, instrumentation, process simulation and fabrication as well as commons areas and eight faculty offices.

“This, to me, is an amazing edifice that will bring more opportunities for our students,” she said. “I hate to see the brain drain; now we won’t have it so much.”

Vadla stood just outside the building, admiring the angular shadows cast by the sunlight on decorative aluminum window bars.

“I didn’t like it in the beginning,” she said. “It’s a big building, and when you get older you don’t like change. Now it is — to me – the prettiest building on campus. It’s modern. It’s young.”

Rashah McChesney is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.