FORT RILEY, Kan. (WIBW) -- The framing of Fort Riley's new $404 million hospital is complete and to celebrate the milestone, officials held a traditional ceremony.
On Tuesday, Irwin Army Community Hospital (IACH) officials hosted a topping-out ritual at the construction site.
The topping-out ceremony is one of the construction industry's oldest customs and signifies the iron and steelworkers' completion of framing a major construction project.
Maj. Gen. William Mayville, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley; Col. Mike Heimall, IACH commander; Maj. Jason Evers, deputy district commander of the Kansas City District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Frank Harrison, Health Facilities Planning Agency project manager; Jeff Bell, operations director, Balfour Walton, a joint venture; and Robert Wells of Derr Steel and Local 10 placed coins and signed their names on a piece of steel that was then lifted up and placed on the top of the structure, symbolizing the completion of the framing phase of construction.
"This is the single largest project, as far as the district Army Corps of Engineers, in the state of Kansas. It’ll be somewhere around $400 million. We are bringing 44 beds in here and we can expand that if we need to. We have more specialty capabilities being brought it as a result of this hospital. It’ll serve 53,000 folks, both military and retirees. What this means to us here on Fort Riley and what it means to the Army is that we get to take care of our soldiers and their families and we’re very proud of that. This is proof of our commitment to not only our soldiers and their families but to our veterans," said Major General Mayville.
This will be the sixth hospital built on Fort Riley.
"Four hundred and fifty one days ago, we turned a shovel of dirt and broke ground. Today we complete the topping off ceremony, the end of vertical construction and in about 650-700 days, we’ll stand out front and cut the ribbon and christen this facility as the newest in Army medicine at the time," said the hospital's commander, Col. Mike Heimall.
He added: "We’re right on the project time lines and so far, the project has been right on budget and so I think we’re right on schedule to open in spring or early summer of 2014. It really doesn’t expand our capacity to take care of soldiers and their families much more than what we have in the existing hospital. The major advantage of this is that it modernizes everything that we have. The building that we’re operating in now was built in 1958. It’s one of the oldest in the Army’s inventory and the way that we deliver health care inside a hospital has changed five, six, seven times over the past 50 to 60 years. The other important piece of this project is that it really designs our facility to deliver patient-centered family care the way that it’s being done in the private sector. We are well ahead of many of our civilian counterparts in terms of patient-family design and some of the design concepts in this building are really cutting edge and really not seen anywhere in health care today across the country."