The State Legislature rescued Suffolk County Community College’s plans for a $21 million new sports-expo-wellness center by including $2 million in the state budget.
The last-minute funding was needed because bids came in $4 million too high. The funds will permit college trustees to approve the winning bid on the new 40,214-square-foot building on the Eastern campus at its April 20 meeting. Officials say construction will take about a year to complete and the center could open as early as the fall of 2018.
“We plan to move as quickly as possible,” said Shaun McKay, college president. “As soon as our board of trustees approves the bid, and the necessary bonding and insurance are in place, construction can commence.”
The state action over the weekend came after college officials last month got Suffolk County lawmakers to approve its $2 million share first in time for Albany lawmakers to consider a last-minute addition to the state budget. The state and county split the cost of college buildings 50-50.
“This is a huge thing, not only for the college but for the entire East End,” said State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), chair of the Higher Education Committee who represents the area where the building is going up. “It’s a project that has been decades in the making and will provide a facility not only for students but the local residents.”
The new complex will complete the 192-acre Eastern campus with 4,000 students near downtown Riverhead. It opened 40 years ago and has never had any indoor facilities for physical education.
The building will include a gymnasium, basketball court, indoor pool, climbing wall, areas for strength and aerobic training as well as offices and classrooms. School officials say the complex will also serve as an expo center for trade shows, agricultural forums and other community events for the East End.
SCCC, the state’s largest community college with 27,000 students on three campuses, was the only two-year state school to get extra funding.
Originally budgeted at $16.75 million, the sports-expo building came in over budget with the lowest of the seven qualified bids coming in at $20.95 million even though college officials, before the bidding, trimmed 4,700 square feet from the complex. Officials say they reduced the building’s height, the size of the gymnasium and cut the number of classrooms. College officials blamed the improving economy and an increase in construction work throughout the metropolitan area for the spike in price.
However, Legis. Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said the project’s cost has spiraled 46 percent over budget, if cutbacks are included. “We spent $1.6 million on consultants to get it right. Are we getting any money back?” he asked. “I’d like a house on Dune Road, but I can’t afford it. And taxpayers can’t afford this.”