WTAMU opens $48 million Agricultural Sciences Complex


Luke Bruce

The new $48 million Ag Complex offers students a variety of new opportunities.

The opening of a $48 million agricultural sciences complex offers students a new reason to consider attending West Texas A&M University.

The 186,000 square feet of academic space opened for classes last month. Department Head of Agricultural Sciences Dr. Lance Kieth said the focus of the new complex is education, research and industry relations.

“Our job is to teach kids stuff plus to get them networking with industry folks,” Kieth said. “The building allows for that whereas before, we didn’t have those spaces to bring in outside industry to do workshops and training.”

Kieth said the idea for a new complex first came with the need of a meats lab.

We want to be an ag center for Texas because our region is the ag center of Texas.”

— Dr. Lance Kieth

“Our meats lab was old, dilapidated and not big enough,” Kieth said. “We live in the meat industry, so we needed to have something. It started with this quest for a meats lab. And then the right people at the right time were sitting around, and someone made the comment, ‘Why not just make an ag complex?’”

Kieth said the idea gained a lot of support from companies like Texas Cattle Feeders and legislative support in Austin, which paved the way for the new complex.

“It just evolved over time,” Kieth said. “It was easy in the sense that we’re in the largest ag footprint in the world, the Texas Panhandle, and our ag department needs to mirror that. It was an easy sell.”

Before construction began in 2016, tuition reserve bonds passed by the state legislature provided $38 million for building costs. Fundraising supplied the other $10 million.

“We want to be an ag center for Texas because our region is the ag center of Texas,” Kieth said. “There was a lot of support, and then we’ve had a lot of community donations back to the building in naming rights and those kind of things. But it’s just the right time, right place–a lot of things coming together have just opened up the door to building this.”

Kieth said he is most proud of how the building layout allows students and faculty to cross paths throughout the day.

You can only learn so much in the classroom. You got to get your hands dirty and experience it.”

— Dr. Lance Kieth

“It’s about relationships,” Kieth said. “Teaching is about relationships, and doing things in our ag community is about relationships. If you can foster relationships, the rest works itself out. I’m also proud of the homage it pays to agriculture. It’s an ag building, and everything about the building is centered around promoting the ag industry.”

The complex consists of the Happy State Bank Academic and Research Building, which features the Caviness Meat Science and Innovation Center and a public market, the Piehl-Schaeffer Pavilion, the Bain Event Center and an arena with seating for 500 people.

“We have more space, but we also have state-of-the-art things,” Kieth said. “Our students get exposed to the latest and greatest. Our meats lab is state-of-the-art, and we are in the meat industry, so our students get a firsthand look. They get to use equipment, and they get to see the process. The facility offers more room, but it also offers more opportunities.”

Kieth said he could not see why students would choose any other ag university.

“The part we can offer that the big boys can’t is real-world application,” Kieth said. “You can only learn so much in the classroom. You got to get your hands dirty and experience it. That’s what we have to offer that the others can’t because we live in the industry. For students not to come here, they’d be foolish not to.”