The topography of the Millikin University campus took a leap forward Wednesday.
A ceremony was held for the Center for Theatre and Dance, a $29 million project that will transform the campus.
We've been watching anxiously, since the May groundbreaking, as land was leveled and equipment, steel and concrete was moved in through heat and snow and everything in between.
Built on the site of the former Richards Treat University Center, it includes a 260-seat theater, lighting and sound labs, a costume studio, classrooms and offices, bringing together operations scattered in about 12 buildings on and off campus under one roof. A fall grand opening is planned.
On Wednesday, donors gathered to sign one of the beams. Students signed another.
The ceremony is an important milestone both for the project and Millikin, continuing the school's world-class performance arts education in our community.
Millikin is ranked in the top 10 for musical theater programs in the country and there is strong demand as a result. Undergraduate enrollment surged 42 percent between 2012 and 2017.
The new center will help meet that demand and continues something of a building spree for Millikin in recent years. The $85 million "Transform MU" capital campaign focused on revamping the campus.
In August 2017, Millikin opened the 87,000-square-foot University Commons, a striking building housing various classrooms, offices and student amenities. The Workman Family Softball Field on North Oakland Avenue opened in March 2017.
And work continues on the south end of campus on the $5 million Workman Family Baseball Field. Work was delayed by winter weather, but the project is now set to open in fall.
All told, it's a substantial investment in one of our community's gems, positioning the university for growth far into the future.
Decatur is incredibly fortunate to have Millikin University.