I headed down to the construction site on a cool Appleton morning in search of Eric Swanlund, senior project manager of the new campus center. Despite passing the site on a pretty regular basis, I had never actually bridged the gap and entered the construction zone until Tuesday.I hesitated outside the Boldt trailer, reading the “Hard Hat Only Zone” signs posted around the entrance with an unusual amount of care for my own self-preservation.
I didn’t know what to expect, though I held the vague hope that the experience would somehow involve a hard hat. I entered the trailer, quite out of my element, obvious from the 100-percent alpaca wool hat on my head down to my already-muddy shoes. I spent the next 20 minutes or so talking to Eric Swanlund before venturing down to the construction site.
Swanlund took on the 19-month project of the new campus center over a year ago, when he began looking over budget information and plans. While this is not the longest project he has worked on, there have been a few complications along the way. The first difficulty was stabilizing Sage when breaking ground. Luckily the high clay content of Appleton’s soil, as evidenced all over my shoes, proved to be of help in stabilizing the building.
Another setback has been the harsh winter; at its peak last week construction had to stop entirely for three days due to the cold. As senior project manager, Swanlund’s duties include managing budgets and contracts and meeting with Lawrence representatives about the campus center’s progress. His workday begins at 6:45 a.m. with a meeting of the construction team.
“My favorite part would definitely have to be the variety of day-to-day work,” said Swanlund. “I get to deal with all different kinds of people which keeps things fresh and dynamic.”
Before breaking ground on the new campus center, Swanlund worked on a variety of projects such as a local hospital, a couple of state prisons, and the Kohl Center in Madison.
Swanlund received a construction management degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then went on to work for the Boldt Company, beginning as a field engineer. His interest in construction was sparked while working as a construction worker during the summers while finishing college.
“I found it fascinating to watch things go from plans to reality,” said Swanlund. In the last 13 years, he has worked throughout Wisconsin as well as going so far as to work on a project in Kentucky.
When it came to heading down to the construction site, I followed Swanlund through rock, mud, and clay. He explained that there are currently about 25 people in the field right now, though this will climb to 80 people in August. Currently, work has started on the second level, which will be completed in six to eight weeks. While this is the view some residents of Sage experience everyday, I stood, or rather struggled for balance, above the future campus center in awe. Though the hard hat wasn’t yellow, my dream nonetheless was realized.