BEMIDJI -- A long-standing building on BSU's campus that welcomed students, staff and visitors through its doors is coming down.

And while it served the needs of students and faculty alike since 1970, Hagg-Sauer Hall also become known the past few years for its lack of proper Americans With Disabilities Act accommodations and severe water damage. Because of the latter, the building had nearly $9 million in deferred maintenance.

As a result, the university launched an initiative to demolish the 82,000 square-foot building and replace it with a 27,700 square-foot academic learning center, seeking funding help through the state Legislature.

After years of legislators from local districts and across the state taking tours, along with lobbying efforts at the capitol, a bonding bill was passed in 2018, including $22.5 million for the Hagg-Sauer project. In addition to the new structure, BSU is also using the state dollars to cover upgrades at A.C. Clark Library, the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex, as well as Bensen and Sattgast halls.

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While the project has been promised since former Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bonding bill, the recently started demolition is the first visible sign of the work finally happening.

"For me, it's an obvious sign that this project is real and that the new building is going up," said Andy Bartlett, BSU executive director of communications and marketing. "We've had incremental steps along the way, moving furniture and having a building retirement ceremony at the end of the school year. But, to see the old building actually coming down, it's exciting."

After demolition is complete, work will begin on the new academic learning center, with an opening expected in fall 2020. Once open, Bartlett said the new building will be completely classrooms, as opposed to the original Hagg-Sauer, which included office space.

"This means the change is coming," Bartlett said. "We know there are a lot of people who have their memories at BSU closely associated with being in Hagg-Sauer for classes and meeting with faculty. We know there are mixed emotions out there about the building coming down, but it's exciting to see the groundwork for this new building."

While the learning center will be new, the building will hold on to its original name of Hagg-Sauer. The title honors history professor Harold Hagg and English professor Philip Sauer, who were hired in the mid-1930s and retired in the 1970s.