July 22, 2013 Updated: July 22, 2013 at 5:50 pm
Declaring that the future of health and wellness is here, officials from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs on Monday feted the construction progress on a new building in town that will mark several firsts.
At a "topping off" ceremony near the intersection of North Nevada Avenue and Austin Bluffs Parkway, a 105-foot crane hoisted the final structural steel beam into place on what is shaping up to be the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences.
"This is wonderful in so many ways for our community. An integrated care model is the future, but it's going to be the 'now' in Colorado Springs," UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak told the crowd gathered for the traditional celebratory construction event.
The $18.5 million building will open in January 2014 with a senior health clinic for the public operated by Peak Vista Community Health Centers and several university programs, including research and training.
The CU Aging Center, the Gerontology Center, the UCCS Trauma Health and Hazards Center, wellness programs of Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and a branch of the CU School of Medicine for third- and fourth-year medical students also will be on site.
The center will have the distinction of offering the nation's first Ph.D. training program emphasizing veterans' health and trauma, according to Charles C. Benight, professor of psychology and director of the UCCS Trauma Health and Hazards Center.
"We've been wanting this program for a while," he said. "We're facing unprecedented challenges with returning soldiers who are separating from the military. Soldiers being chaptered out or less than honorably discharged have no services through the VA, and often they have mental and physical challenges. To be able to provide care to that population at almost no cost will be very beneficial."
The center also is the first UCCS building in the North Nevada Avenue urban renewal zone and the lead for a long-term expansion that involves a visual and performing arts center and a sports and wellness village with a 5,000-seat arena, field house and high-altitude track.
A $4 million donation made in November 2011 from Colorado Springs resident Margot Lane and the John E. and Margaret L. Lane Foundation launched the health center. Margot Lane earned a bachelor's degree from UCCS in 1982, and her late husband's family owned the local Pepsi-Cola franchise for 72 years.
Her son, Phil Lane, said she is "thrilled" to be "a small piece of this effort" and likes to get behind ideas that "demonstrate community support."
The topping off ceremony originated in Norway, explained Jim Johnson, president and chief executive officer of GE Johnson Construction. After finishing a wooden structure, Scandinavians would lift a new tree to the top of the building, in honor of the trees used in construction, he said.
In contemporary times, those involved in a building's construction sign their names on the last beam to symbolize teamwork, quality craftsmanship and good luck.
About 100 people at Monday's ceremony signed the final beam, including Mariness Falcon, a project manager for UCCS' facilities services department.
"It's history in the making," she said after putting her name on the beam before its 80-foot ascent to the top of the building. "So many are looking forward to this, not only for our campus but for the community."