On Sept. 7, the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural & Life Sciences (CALS) hosted a celebration to mark the launch of a major construction project for Babcock Hall on the Madison, Wis., campus. The $47 million project involves the renovation of the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant, as well as a new three-story addition for the Center for Dairy Research (CDR).
“The facility is going to be one of the premier dairy education and research centers in the nation. Most importantly, it’s going to be a hub for discovery and innovation for Wisconsin’s dairy industry, working closely with our faculty and our students,” University of Wisconsin-Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank said.
Funding for the project came from the state of Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and donors. Nearly 200 individual donors — primarily from the state’s cheese industry — raised more than $18 million to support the project, the university said.
“We are deeply grateful for everyone’s efforts on behalf of this project,” CALS dean Kathryn VandenBosch said. “We could not have done this without the support of our industry investors, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the state. I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough.”
More than 150 cheese industry leaders, government and university officials and project leaders were on hand for the celebration, which featured a short program and a luncheon. Program speakers included Blank, VandenBosch, DATCP assistant deputy secretary Keith Ripp, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Assn. executive director John Umhoefer, Madison food science chair Scott Rankin and CDR director John Lucey.
The renovation of the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant will modernize the aging facility, which produces bottled milk, cheese and the university’s iconic Babcock ice cream for on-campus and some off-campus retail sites and serves as a laboratory and learning facility for students, university researchers and industry personnel. The renovation will add a new ice cream maker, more freezer and cooler space, an improved raw milk receiving bay as well as new piping, pumps and valves to more efficiently move milk and milk products around the plant, according to the announcement. This will be the first major upgrade to the dairy plant since it was built in 1951.
The CDR addition will enhance the center’s ability to work with companies developing all kinds of new and improved dairy-based foods, the university said. Established in 1986, CDR provides scientific expertise in dairy research as well as technical support and education to dairy processors. Each year, CDR works with more than 100 dairy companies and more than 30 national and international dairy organizations on various projects and education courses that help to move the industry forward, according to the announcement.
The addition features state-of-the-art research, instruction and small-scale production space, as well as a broader array of dairy food processing equipment. In addition to fortifying the center’s traditional strengths, it will open up new opportunities to work on alternative dairy products such as whey as well as fermented dairy products, including specialty yogurts, the university said.
There will also be nine rooms for specialty cheese ripening, as well as space for the processing and handling of various other specialty cheeses.
“As the global marketplace offers new opportunities, it’s critical that we maintain our reputation for the highest-quality dairy products and innovative processing practices,” Umhoefer said. “It’s exciting to see ground broken [on this project], because we know a world-class facility holds the potential for breakthroughs in dairy product development and innovation.”
The Wisconsin Building Commission and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents approved final plans for the project in the spring of 2018, and it moved into the construction phase in the summer.
The project, led by contractor C.D. Smith Construction, involves three distinct phases. Phase 1, which is currently underway, includes constructing a new loading dock and milk receiving bay. This phase also included demolition of the Science House, which took place in early August. Phase 2, anticipated to start in early 2019, involves the construction of the CDR addition. The third phase is the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant renovation, which is expected to begin in early 2020. Project completion is slated for later in 2020.