SIERRA VISTA — The completed construction of the new Automotive Technology Building marks the end of a long awaited chapter for Cochise College.

“In November of 2019, the Cochise College Governing Board approved the construction of the Automotive Technology Building at a cost not to exceed $6.25 million,” said college president J.D. Rottweiler. “Long-term facilities planning had been underway for an automotive building since 2010. A partnership, established in 2016, with Lawley Automotive Group allowed the college to use a vacated dealership on State Route 92. This allowed the college time to plan for a facility on the Sierra Vista Campus.

“In Fiscal Year 2020, the state legislature, under the leadership of Sen. David Gowan, appropriated an additional $3.14 million dollars to Cochise College for workforce initiatives. The college utilized $2.14 million from that allocation. The remaining funding was taken from college reserves set aside for facility improvements.”

On Tuesday Cochise College opened the new Automotive Technology Building with a ribbon cutting. Those in the limited attendance were able to take a tour of the building, which allows for social distancing and top-notch teaching.

The building is 24,000 square feet with 22 bays, which automotive instructor James Krause said is a “huge improvement” over their current space on SR 92. The new building also allows for an upgrade in technology. Krause said they now have Go Pro cameras they can use to get a closer look at parts in the car which can be seen on a monitor by students.

“The thought was to make it as up to date as possible with technology,” he said. “We’re really excited about this new building and the new technology to enhance (the program) for the students.”

Classes begin in the new building on Jan. 19 when students return for the spring semester. Krause said there are 50 students enrolled for the upcoming semester. He noted that numbers are lower this semester than previous years because classes were limited and cut due to COVID-19 precautions.

The coronavirus has proved the importance of adapting a technology. Krause said the new equipment allows the program to continue in case they need to go back to completely virtual learning. Cameras in the work area allows for classes to be taught through live streaming if needed.

In addition to the 19,000 square feet of lab space the building also houses classrooms that can hold 20 students each. This semester they will have a maximum of 15 students.

“We should be able to run two to three classes at the same time,” Krause said.

The college will continue to offer day and night programs to offer more opportunities for students. Krause said this building is a reflection of the community and college’s support.

“As our program grew the college, community and students saw the need for something like this (new building),” he said.