LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -

In 2012, voters in western Wisconsin approved a nearly $80 million referendum aimed at improving facilities at Western Technical College.

This fall, a big portion of that project reopened to students.

The Coleman Center was first built in 1923 and last upgraded in the 1970s.

Its renovation is a big portion of the Vision 2020 project referendum that was passed in 2012.

Now that it's open, officials say it will make a big difference in a student's experience at the school.

Mark Davini has taught at Western Technical College for 13 years. His digital media production classes made use of a production facility that was quickly becoming outdated.

"Things got to be dirty and grungy, and took a special kind of person to want to hang out there,” Davini said.

As part of the newly renovated Coleman Center, his classroom now is a state-of-the-art facility.

“This is probably one of the only green screen sweeps in the area,” Davini said. “We have this beautiful photo sweep as well."

Officials say the renovation, which included remodeling offices as well as over 22 classrooms, is a mix of both old and new.

"I think the coolest part of the building is the reflection of the past,” Jay McHenry, director of facilities, said. “We kept the exterior intact. We recognize the original design intent, and many aspects of the original design. But we also didn't hide over them."

The completion of the project also helps Western's goal of reaching capacity for 10,000 students, as part of their Vision 2020 plan.

"So our capacity to give us more classroom space allows us to present and help our instructional programs achieve a better grade point, better student retention,” McHenry said. “So it really contributes to the vision of facility and growing the institution for that goal in 2020."

Faculty say the project will help students and the community for years to come.

"We have updated this facility to be strong and serve the community and students easily for the next 20 to 25 years,” Davini said. “It's absolutely thrilling."
Sustainability was another goal of the renovation project.

Just by replacing the outdated roof and windows, officials say they were able to make the building 20 percent more energy efficient.

The building phase of the Vision 2020 project is expected to be complete by December, with the Kumm Center renovation.