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Beth rickers/daily globe The current fitness and athletic facilities at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus, will be renovated and expanded thanks to funding provided in the legislature's 2012 bonding bill.

Minnesota West gets $4.6 million

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WORTHINGTON -- A public works bill of nearly $500 million dollars signed Friday by Gov. Mark Dayton includes money for flood prevention, transportation and colleges -- something that has everyone at Minnesota West Community and Technical College jumping up and down with excitement. Approximately $4.6 million will go toward a new field house at the Worthington campus.

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"My first response is 'Woo hoo!'" said Minnesota West President Richard Shrubb.

On a day when he was preparing for a nurse pinning ceremony and the fifth and final graduation ceremony of the year, the news came as a shock. A good shock, he clarified.

Dayton had wanted more projects as a boost to Minnesota's construction industry, but said the bill was better than nothing as he signed it Friday. The largest chunks of money go to higher education: $64 million for the University of Minnesota and $132 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Flood prevention projects get $30 million and transportation projects $49 million. The bill also provides $44 million for work on the Capitol.

Minnesota West Athletic Director Mike Fury was still a bit in shock in the late afternoon, but is "just as excited as all get out," he said.

"This has been on the table for quite a few years," he said. "We've been here about three times when it came down to the last three hours of a session. Once it even got line vetoed. We're just waiting now to see how things happen."

The lack of bonding funds for Minnesota West has been a disappointment to Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, over the last several years, he told the Daily Globe. A problem, he said, was that MnSCU's priority list didn't have Minnesota West very high on the list in the past.

"They weren't putting (it) high enough in the priority list to get to the finish line," Magnus said. "They came in this year as the fourth-highest priority for MnSCU. That was really helpful, and we pushed it hard from the start... there was never any really any significant discussion to take it out."

The current field house structure on the campus was built in 1969, with minor changes being made over the years. According to Fury, the blueprints for the expansion/renovation are ready to go, having been updated two years ago.

"It's going to be a neat transition from the YMCA," Fury said. "Currently at the Y, there's a hallway that goes nowhere. Now it has a place to go."

The new plans also bring the building up to both ADA and Title IX code, which addresses equality for both genders and persons with disabilities and includes, programming, opportunities and facilities such as locker rooms and classrooms.

"It's going to be really nice," Fury claimed. "I'd really like to thank the administration and representatives for looking out for us. We appreciate all of the hard work they've done."

Shrubb said MnSCU has a process of initiating building as soon as the school gets the funding from the state.

"Soon there will be bulldozers," he said, the enthusiasm in his voice evident.

He thanked the YMCA, the city of Worthington and the DeGroot family for their participation in the complex.

"About 14 years ago, the people in Worthington had a concept that we'd have this joint complex, and now Minnesota West in finally able to come through with their portion," he said. "This has been a very good week for me."

Shrubb is hoping to get those bulldozers rolling as soon as possible --very shortly, even.

"We're not going to dawdle at this point," he added.

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