BMO donates $1 million to fund construction of new state-of-the-art science building

By | Community, Construction, Economic Impact

The University of Lethbridge (U of L) today announced that BMO Financial Group has joined the University’s Destination Project through a $1 million philanthropic donation for construction of a new Science and Academic Building at its Lethbridge campus.

The Destination Project is the boldest and most significant development for the University since the construction of the original University Hall. The new facilities will bring together faculty and students from across science disciplines, promote and enable curricular innovation, help students achieve their academic goals and foster a community of science at the U of L and across southern Alberta.

The new Academic and Science Building’s showcase theatre will carry a BMO Financial name.

The new Academic and Science Building’s showcase theatre will carry a BMO Financial name.

The theatre, which will carry the name of BMO Financial Group, will serve as a key space for housing science outreach activities.

“We are very appreciative of BMO Financial Group for joining us in the creation of this transformational project and helping us shape the future of the University of Lethbridge,” says U of L President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Mike Mahon. “Our relationship with BMO encompasses a number of initiatives and this gift extends their history of supporting both the University and the southern Alberta community.”

“We are very pleased to partner with U of L on the Destination Project, one that will undoubtedly enhance the University and experience of students in the community for years to come,” says Susan Brown, Senior Vice-President, Alberta and North West Territories Division, BMO Bank of Montreal. “We have a longstanding relationship with the school and remain committed to investing in programs that will help the advancement of future leaders in the field of science.”

Knowledge sharing is a key component of the Destination Project, between professors and students as well as to the broader southern Alberta community. The BMO Financial Group sponsored theatre will serve as a key space for housing science outreach activities.

“The Destination Project is designed to engage the community. Science shouldn’t exist behind closed doors,” says Dr. Ute Kothe, supervisor of the University’s Let’s Talk science program and a researcher in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “It’s our obligation to enable a hands-on approach to learning that will ignite a greater curiosity for science in adults and children.”


U of L President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Mike Mahon (Right) pictured with BMO Financial Group representatives including Susan Brown, Senior Vice-President, Alberta and North West Territories Division (Left).

In under 50 years, the U of L has evolved from an idea to one of Canada’s top-ranked universities and leading research institutions. Building on these past accomplishments, the Destination Project is the next step forward – helping shape the future of science and teaching for the next 50 years.

“These facilities will give us the research capacity for the future of this institution,” says Dr. Craig Cooper, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science. “We are thrilled that BMO Financial Group has recognized the potential of this development and what it will mean to the University, our region, province and country for years to come.”

A tale of two cranes

By | Construction

After a few months of doing all of the heavy lifting, Big Yeller, the tower crane onsite at the Destination Project, has received a helping hand, or jib, to be more accurate.

Little Yeller, the second tower crane, is now assembled and working away to ensure that every inch of the new science and academic building site is able to be reached. Standing slightly shorter than his larger compatriot, Little Yeller stands at around 165 feet and has almost the same lifting capacity.

Together, these two enormous pieces of machinery are pushing forward the progress on the Destination Project but they don’t do it alone. Someone has to push the buttons and pull the levers, a position Kerry Swift has been sitting high above ground in for more than 25 years.

“It takes around 10 to 15 minutes to climb up to the cabin. Going up around 200 feet gets your heart going in the morning that’s for sure,” says Swift. “The trick in the winter is not get too much of a sweat worked up because as soon as you get inside the cabin, the whole thing fogs up and then you’ve got to wait before you can get working.”

For people that work on the ground, the idea of having your office way up in the sky can seem kind of thrilling or terrifying depending on your comfort level with heights. But for Swift, it’s just the everyday humdrum of his career.

“Getting to be up so high and see out over the landscape was a real adrenaline rush when I first started, but now it’s just where my desk is,” Swift laughed.

You can see Swift and Big Yeller working on the construction site by viewing the live view cameras on the Destination Project’s website.


Boots on the ground; Destination Project powers ahead

By | Construction

As the winter months quickly approach, work on the Destination Project is far from slowing down. University President, Dr. Mike Mahon, recently toured the construction site and says the progress is remarkable.

University President Dr. Mike Mahon gets an on-the-ground update on the progress of the Destination Project build.


“I toured the site in early September and in that short amount of time it has undergone incredible change,” says Mahon.

The progression of the build has been moving ahead thanks to the considered planning, management and work of PCL Construction Management and U of L staff. The Destination Project has a hardworking team of project managers and administrators based in the construction trailer office on site. Project Director Brian Sullivan says the team working on the science and academic building is one of the best he’s worked with to date.

“The Destination Project is the biggest construction project this campus has seen, with the exception of the original University Hall building. There are so many moving pieces that go into a project of this size and having a team that works well under that type of stress is absolutely essential. Better yet is that we still manage to have a laugh in the process,” says Sullivan.

Board of Governors Chair, Kurt Schlachter (BSc ’00), says adding to the success of the build is the quality of local industry partners.

“Southern Alberta is home to some of the best trades and supply companies in the industry. Companies like D.A Electric Ltd., Reive Plumbing and Heating Ltd. and Maverick Concrete Ltd. are all based in our community and we’re able to directly inject significant dollars into the local economy by simply hiring the best in the business. It’s a win-win situation,” says Schlachter.

Board of Governors Chair, Kurt Schlachter (BSc ’00) listens as Project Director Brian Sullivan updates the group on the progress of construction.

Board of Governors Chair, Kurt Schlachter (BSc ’00) listens as Project Director Brian Sullivan updates the group on the progress of construction.


In addition to the construction industry adding to the smooth progression of the Destination Project, faculty input has been key in the planning and design stages of the new science and academic building. Mahon believes without the careful consideration and time from faculty and staff, the end result would be a mere shadow of what we will see with the final product.

“Having faculty input and opinion in the design stage was paramount to ensuring the Destination Project is a success not only for students and the southern Alberta community, but for our talented team of researchers and faculty,” says Mahon. “It will ensure our own people are equipped with the resources they need to power ahead in their research and make new and exciting discoveries right here at home.”

Dr. Janay Nugent (BA '95) and Students' Union President, Cameron Howey enjoy a tour of the Destination Project.

Dr. Janay Nugent (BA ’95) and Students’ Union President, Cameron Howey enjoy a tour of the Destination Project.


With the final concrete raft slab pour taking place in the coming weeks, the next significant milestone will be the addition of a second tower crane in mid-November. Take a tour from above the future home of science in southern Alberta by watching fly-over drone footage at

Destination Project powers ahead with ‘Big Yeller’

By | Construction

The Destination Project site has welcomed a big, bright yellow buddy to do some seriously heavy lifting. The tower crane, nicknamed “Big Yeller” which stands over 200 ft tall, is owned by PCL Construction Management. PCL Superintendent, Daryl Campbell, says it took some careful forethought and manpower to get Big Yeller on site.

A Birdseye view of Big Yeller hard at work on the Destination Project site.

“The planning process for this crane took quite some time as there are a lot of moving pieces to organize when using this type of crane. Just to physically get the crane here took nine trucks which drove from Nisku, south of Edmonton,” says Campbell.

The tower crane is assembled in sections and stages and once it’s complete, Big Yeller has the lifting capacity of around 26,500 pounds when the load is closest to the mast. At the tip of the crane’s jib, the crane can lift around 10,800 pounds. This kind of lifting capacity will come in handy as the columns and concrete levels start to take shape.

Taking around two days to completely erect and have operational, the tower crane is built by a team of seven people. Not to mention the other crane which was needed to help construct it.

“The red, lifting crane that had been onsite to assist with the assembly of the tower crane has a lifting capacity of around 500 tons and there are very few in Western Canada,” says Campbell.

Apart from standing out on the campus landscape, another unique fact about Big Yeller is that the pad or base of the crane is actually built right into the raft slab of the building. This makes the bottom 8 ft. section of crane somewhat sacrificial. Once Big Yeller has completed its final duty, the crane will be broken down again and a welder will come to cut the base section down to the raft slab and then the final concrete slab will be poured right over the top.

Big Yeller will be joined by another tower crane mid-November, but it won’t stand quite as tall as it’s big brother. Watch Big Yeller do some seriously heavy lifting by checking out the live webcams at

Destination Project packs economic punch

By | Community, Construction, Economic Impact

As construction on the Destination Project continues to grow, so too are the dollars in the hands of local families and businesses. When PCL Construction Management Ltd. was awarded the contract to build the future science and academic building, many of PCL’s employees packed their bags and relocated to southern Alberta from their offices in Calgary and beyond. It’s a move that Tim Demler, superindendent for PCL Builders Inc., says has been nothing but incredibly refreshing.

“My wife and I have rented a local property and set ourselves up in a great spot on the south side of Lethbridge. There is a heavy sense of community, courtesy and strong work ethic throughout the city,” says Demler.

Community mindedness doesn’t stop there in Demler’s experience. PCL has also taken advantage of the expertise and inventory of local trades and suppliers.

“We have made a real effort to use local equipment, fuel and material suppliers at every turn,” says Demler. “This not only provides benefit to the project in time and cost, but it showcases the expertise of the construction and equipment specialists in this area. I can easily say that it has been a breath of fresh air to deal with all of our suppliers here.”

Another way the Destination Project has been boosting the southern Albertan economy is by satisfying the hunger of those working on the construction site. The Enmax Centre has recently opened an onsite cafeteria for the approximately 400 workers who are expected to be onsite by fall. City of Lethbridge food and beverage manager, Tania McMahon, says the project has allowed the city to pursue a new stream of revenue.

“Not only does this project provide local jobs and revenue for Lethbridge, but it allows workers to stay on site take advantage of healthier meal options,” says McMahon. “There have also been three full-time jobs and two part-time positions created, and as the project grows and the amount of contractors on site increases, food service positions will also increase.”

With grading on the site now complete, the structural work will start to take shape in the coming weeks. The change in the campus landscape is sure to generate an energy amongst those returning to the University as the fall semester approaches. Find out more about the Destination Project by clicking over to

Destination Project construction officially given go-ahead

By | Construction

An increased and accelerated investment of $125 million in Budget 2016 has allowed the University of Lethbridge to begin construction immediately on the Destination Project.

The Destination Project includes construction of a new 36,000-square metre science and academic building giving students access to leading-edge labs and programming. The University of Lethbridge has experienced increasing demand and the new building will increase capacity in science programs by 450 students. Government has committed $248 million to the Destination Project over the next five years. The new science and academic building is expected to open for faculty and students in fall 2019.

The Destination Project – a new science and academic building – will shape the future of the University of Lethbridge and southern Alberta.

“This is an investment in our province’s future,” says Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt. “The Destination Project will not only provide access to world-class programming and learning opportunities for students, but will also help encourage growth and economic diversification in southern Alberta by capitalizing on the research and innovation taking place at the University of Lethbridge.”

The Destination Project’s innovative construction plans include flexible lab spaces, dedicated space to bring ideas to reality, science displays, classrooms and meeting rooms, and gathering areas that will meet the needs of students, staff, industry and the community today and in the future.’

The new building will also support the business development and commercialization activities at the University and will be a science centre for southern Alberta.

“The Destination Project will create a state-of-the-art learning experience for students and will provide the necessary space for the University of Lethbridge’s leading researchers,” says U of L President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Mike Mahon. “The positive economic and social impact of this infrastructure on the communities we serve cannot be overstated. This new space will enhance innovation through partnerships with industry and increase community engagement by making science accessible to southern Albertans.”

Currently there are between 70 to 100 workers on the Destination Project construction site. That number will rise to between 300 and 400 within a year. The construction of the Destination Project will generate an estimated $462 million in economic spinoff (gross production).

In Budget 2016, government delivered on its commitment to stable and predictable funding for post-secondary education by maintaining the two-year tuition freeze for students as well as increasing base operating grants by two per cent and backfilling funding for the tuition freeze for institutions.