Maricopa community gathers as CAC cuts the ribbon on its newest campus
By Guy Harrison, CAC Media & Marketing Specialist
MARICOPA, Ariz. - Nearly two years ago community members from the city of Maricopa, the Ak-Chin Indian Community and Pinal County at large gathered on a cold, blustery day to celebrate the groundbreaking for what was billed as a game-changer for all parties: a Central Arizona College campus in Maricopa.
With the first phase of the campus complete and its doors open to students since January, those same community members gathered on Tuesday, Sept. 17, this time on a sweltering Arizona day, to officially unveil the campus during the college's ribbon cutting ceremony.
The campus' blend of modern architecture and natural, low-maintenance materials wowed those in attendance. Joseph Enos, a member of the Tohono O'odham Nation who was on hand to bless the campus, proudly declared, "Academia comes to Maricopa. How nice."
Enos was not the only person proud of the 76,245-square feet facility. For starters, a section of the land that the campus was built on was acquired by CAC in a land swap with the Ak-Chin Indian Community that provided one contiguous property.
"It's an honor to be here. This is an eye-opening experience," Louis Manuel, Jr., chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Council and former CAC student, said. "[This is a place] where people inspire youth and educate, motivate and create opportunities."
After Enos blessed the campus, CAC President Dr. Doris Helmich was the first of several community leaders who spoke about the campus' impact on CAC, the city of Maricopa, the Ak-Chin Indian Community and Pinal County.
"The use of daylight harvesting, rammed-earth technology and directional positioning of the buildings has enhanced the learning experience and made the Maricopa Campus a destination for students and the community while at the same time blending in seamlessly with CAC's cost containment initiatives and responsibility to the taxpayers of Pinal County."
Helmich would go on to add that "this entire facility is a testament to the vision and cooperation of CAC employees, the architects, the contractors, public officials and community leaders."
Those words proved prophetic as a sense of cooperation and community was pervasive throughout the ceremony.
Christian Price, the mayor of Maricopa, was quick to point to the burgeoning sense of community that has grown before and after the approval of the site and the construction of the campus.
"When I think about the beautiful campus that we now have before us, I think about the cooperation between these different partnerships and what they bring to us. They bring us education that we really would not have otherwise. They bring us jobs and the ability to live closer to where we want to work and play and have a community feel."
Those who designed and led the construction of the campus - such as Mark Kranz from SmithGroupJJR - spoke like proud new parents as well.
"What strikes me today, as a design professional, is how extremely rare it is to have the opportunity to start a campus from scratch and to set the tone for the next decades to come," Kranz said.
"When you come together as a team, anything is possible and that's truly what happened here," Jim Jacobs, CEO of Core Construction, added.
With the fall semester now in full swing, the college has turned its attention from constructing the campus to enhancing the educational experience of its students.
Despite a climate in which community college enrollment has declined as people slowly return to work across the country, CAC's enrollment at the Maricopa Campus has increased 40% from the spring 2013 semester. This illustrates that the campus is indeed becoming a destination of higher education.
Local residents not enrolled at CAC or employed by the college will soon have an opportunity to get an in-depth look at the new campus. On Friday, Oct. 4 from 6-9 p.m., CAC will host a Science Night and Open House for the public that will feature an array of activities for all age groups.