Cocky gets birds eye view of My Carolina Alumni Center’s Topping Off

  • Thursday, July 31, 2014

A replica of Cocky, the beloved mascot of University of South Carolina, took flight Thursday atop an 18-foot beam bearing the signatures of hundreds of alumni that was placed at the peak of My Carolina Alumni Center being constructed in the Vista.

The raising of the 500-pound beam was part of a Topping Off ceremony to signify the completion of the structural or “steel” phase of the center. A small cedar tree, symbolizing strength and good fortune, was placed on the beam as is customary for iron workers to do when the highest point of construction is reached.

President Harris Pastides likened the construction milestone to a university's most definining milestone — commencement.

“A topping off ceremony is much like a commencement ceremony: it marks the end of a period of intensive work and the beginning of the next exciting phase,” Pastides said. “Today, as we place the final 500-pound structural beam, we begin the next phase — creating an interior that transforms a skeletal structure into a warm and inviting home for the USC Alumni Association. The center will be a glorious bridge between the Vista and campus, and provide a connecting point for alumni and USC students worldwide.”

Jack Claypoole, executive director of My Carolina, said reaching the pinnacle moves the university a step closer to creating a place for alumni to rekindle passions and to connect them with students through mentoring and career development opportunities.

“As alumni, we are honored to bring this facility to life in service to our university's students and nearly 280,000 living alumni. This privately funded effort will give us a home that welcomes alumni and supports students while also adding to the great conference and hospitality offerings in the Midlands,” Claypoole said.

Since its establishment more than 170 years ago, the university's alumni association has never played a more critical role in the life of the university than it does today. With an alumni base of nearly 280,000 that is young and growing, the association increasingly is providing lifelong learning opportunities through continuing education and career support through networking and professional development. It also provides a framework for alumni to volunteer with the university and in their communities and to advocate for higher education.

Set to open in summer 2015, the Alumni Center with its 60,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space will serve as the nexus for those activities as well as a venue for a variety of events, ranging from meetings to weddings.

Located at Lincoln and Senate streets near the Colonial Life Arena and the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, the center will have adjacent parking and will be walking distance to shops, hotels and restaurants in the Vista.

The $26 million center, created by alumni for alumni, is privately funded. Designed by Columbia-based architect LS3P, the center will bridge campus to the Vista through its use of red brick, columns, lanterns and wrought iron fencing and rails that are reminiscent of the historic Horseshoe.

The three-story Alumni Center was designed with flexibility in mind. With alumni staff offices on the top floor, the bottom floors will be devoted to a variety of meeting and conference spaces that include a large ballroom, catering kitchens, board room for the university's trustees and a presidential dining room. An outdoor garden patio will be able to accommodate concerts and receptions. The center will be equipped with the latest teleconference and presentation technology.

But is it how the center is reinvigorating alumni passion and engagement that Claypoole finds more exciting.

“From academics to athletics, there has never been a better time to be a Gamecock,” Claypoole said. “The nearly 3,000 alumni who had added their names to today's ceremony in person and through social media are a testament to the enthusiasm and excitement we all have for our state's flagship university.”

My Carolina Alumni Center

Architect: LS3P Associates, Columbia

Project management: LCK, Columbia

Construction management: McCrory Construction Company and Rentenbach Constructors, Columbia

MWBE participation: Nearly a third (32.7 percent) of subcontracted work is with minority and women-owned businesses.

Cost: $26 million (privately funded)

Location: Senate and Lincoln streets in the Vista

Estimated square footage: 60,627 square feet

Outdoor plaza: 2,500 square feet

Construction timeline: Groundbreaking was Nov.1, 2013. Site preparation began March 27, 2014.

Scheduled opening date: Summer 2015

Local contractors: Many Columbia contractors have and will continue to play a role in the construction of the Alumni Center. Nearly all of the contractors are South Carolina based.

Foundational facts: The structural phase of the Alumni Center includes approximately:

• 1 million pounds (500 tons) of structural and reinforced steel (equivalent to the amount of steel used to build 400 automobiles);

• 62,500 square feet of metal decking (enough to cover about 1.5 acres);

• 7,000 shop and field bolts used to affix beams and girders; and

• 1,200 cubic yards (nearly 5 million pounds) of concrete (about 3.7 miles of sidewalk).

Levels: The building has three levels:

1 – Conference space, ballroom and catering kitchen and office area

2 – Conference space, boardroom, executive dining, catering kitchen

3 – Alumni staff and executive offices

Design and features: The new home of the University of South Carolina Alumni Association is intended to be a bridge between campus and the historic Columbia Vista. Reflective of the iconic Horseshoe, the architectural design with its red brick, precast concrete accents, columns, lanterns, wrought iron fencing and rails, will evoke the feeling of home for students and alumni. The central lobby with its grand staircase, warm wood trim and gathering space will convey an inviting elegance and feeling of belonging. The main ballroom will accommodate large banquets and meetings and smaller events by using operable partitions. The outdoor patio was designed to serve a spectrum of events, from a laid back rock-n-roll party to formal weddings.

Technology: The Alumni Center will feature the technology needed no matter the event or space required. Advanced conferencing, audio-visual and exhibit technology will be installed throughout the building, allowing alumni from around the world to communicate in real-time. More than $1 million will be devoted to interactive exhibits and displays that will showcase the history, student life, impact and vision of the state's flagship university.

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