MADISON, Wis. — Babcock Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus is undergoing its first major upgrade since the dairy plant was built in 1951.

Babcock Hall houses a dairy plant and store, the UW-Madison Food Science Department, and the Center for Dairy Research. The dairy plant will be renovated on its existing footprint while the Center for Dairy Research will be expanded to three stories.

The $47-million project is expected to be completed sometime in 2020. The renovation and the Center for Dairy Research addition will encompass 77,400 square feet. The state of Wisconsin, UW-Madison and about 200 donors are funding the renovation and expansion. Those donors – primarily from Wisconsin’s cheese industry – raised more than $18 million for the project. Along with the Babcock Hall project, there are nine construction projects underway on the UW-Madison campus.

More than 150 people celebrated Babcock’s remodeling and expansion at an event held Sept. 7 at the DeJope Residence Hall in Madison.

“I’ve seen the passion of dairy farmers and processors for this project; it’s a great example of public and private partnerships,” said Keith Ripp, assistant deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “Securing funding means UW-Madison will have a world-class facility for years to come.”

Members of the newly formed Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0 identified dairy research and innovation as priorities to address challenges faced by Wisconsin’s dairy industry, he said. The task force was created by Wis. Gov. Scott Walker as a joint effort between the UW-System and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

“This project will ensure that Wisconsin and UW stay at the forefront of the global dairy industry,” Ripp said.

Rebecca Blank, UW-Madison chancellor, said the Center for Dairy Research is one of the country’s premier dairy-research and education facilities. The hub for discovery is the result of about 200 individuals and organizations that helped raise funds, she said. John Lucey, director of the Center for Dairy Research and a professor of food science at UW-Madison, thanked the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin that has funded the Center for Dairy Research for more than 30 years.

The center’s addition will enable it to expand the product- research and training services it offers to Wisconsin’s cheese industry. The center will feature research, instruction and small-scale production space – as well as cutting-edge dairy-food processing equipment. Included will be nine rooms for specialty-cheese ripening, with more space for processing and handling.

Scott Rankin teaches a senior-level class that addresses the Food Safety Modernization Act. Signed into law in 2011, it aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to food contamination to preventing it. The law features standards of food-production design and hygiene.

“I’m glad we’re moving ahead,” he said. “We’ve had to let students know that Babcock currently doesn’t represent the designs of today’s food companies.”

When the Babcock Hall project is completed, students will learn in a state-of-the-art facility. The average enrollment in UW-Madison’s food-science department is 101 undergraduates and between 35 and 40 graduate students, said Rankin, chairman of the department,

“Most of our graduates move on to careers in the food industry,” he said. “We have about 100 percent placement.”

The architectural plan for the project was developed with the support of a design team including representatives from UW-Madison, industry groups and the Division of Facilities Development within the state of Wisconsin’s Department of Administration. The team worked with Zimmerman Architectural Studios of Milwaukee. General contractor for the project is C.D. Smith Construction Inc. of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

The project will move forward in three phases.

Phase one – currently underway – involves constructing a new loading dock and milk-receiving bay.

Phase two, expected to begin in early 2019, will involve construction of the Center for Dairy Research addition.

Phase three is the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant renovation, which is expected to begin in early 2020.

The dairy plant will feature a new ice-cream maker, more freezer and cooler space, and an improved bay for receiving raw milk. There will be new piping, pumps and valves to more efficiently move milk and milk products around the plant.

Architects say the renovation will be somewhat of a juggling act.

“The icebuilder is crucial,” said Barry Yang, an architect at Zimmerman Architectural Studios. “It needs to be finished before removing the existing icebuilder. The milk intake also won’t be able to be removed until the new intake is finished. Otherwise milk won’t be able to be delivered. They need to keep the operation continuously running.”

The Babcock Hall Dairy Store, including the main-store entrance, will remain open throughout the project. But customers may notice a reduced selection of some products such as cheese and milk, and possibly fewer ice-cream flavors.

Agri-View Editor Julie Belschner contributed to this story.

Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin. Email lgrooms@madison.com to contact her.