Allan Hancock College celebrated the opening of its new $17.6 million Industrial Technology Complex on Friday afternoon, including an automotive lab remembering a top drag racer from Santa Maria.
The complex, Building O on the Santa Maria campus, includes more than 35,000 square feet of classroom and laboratory space for the eight industrial technology programs.
Those programs are apprenticeship training, architectural drafting, auto body technology, automotive technology, electronics technology, engineering technology, machining and manufacturing technology, and welding technology.
They had been housed in facilities some 50 years old, and both staff and students welcome the additional space.
Eric Mason, department chairman, said he’s partial to the auto body section since that’s where he teaches.
“But I’m pretty excited about the whole Industrial Technology Complex,” Mason said, adding they waited a long time for the facility,
The complex is the last major project funded by bond Measure I, which was passed by area voters in 2006.
Some of the labs in the former facility were inadequate for the number of students and equipment they needed to accommodate, Mason said.
Lack of space wasn’t the only problem with their former home. They battled frequent power problems that interfered with equipment.
Guest speakers at Friday’s ceremony also included Superintendent/President Kevin Walthers; AHC Board of Trustees President Greg Pensa; Pam Johnson, Blaine Johnson family representative; as well as machining and manufacturing technology graduate Francisco Navarro.
Blaine Johnson, a Santa Maria resident, was a professional drag racer who died from injuries he received in a crash Aug. 31, 1996, in Indianapolis. He had already won several top championships.
His family made a donation to the Industrial Technology Program to provide equipment in the Blaine Johnson Memorial Engine Lab.
Both Blaine and his crew chief brother, Alan, who has carried on in the racing sport and won more championships while earning global recognition for his performance engineering, attended Hancock College, their sister Pam Johnson said.
“We knew that if there was going to be a way to keep Blaine’s memory alive, we wanted to put it into something that he loved,” said Pam Johnson, who lives in Phoenix. “And he loved being here in the program.”
The family holds a golf tournament and auction fundraiser to also provide scholarships in Blaine Johnson’s name. In all, approximately $500,000 has been donated his memory of Blaine Johnson.
The grand-opening event concluded with a raffle drawing of items built and created by industrial technology faculty and staff, as well as a unique ribbon cutting ceremony with a metal ribbon created by welding instructor Gabriel Marquez.
The complex is the last major project funded by bond Measure I, which was passed by area voters in 2006. The $180 million bond has resulted in the college’s new track and fields, Student Services and Administration buildings, Children’s Center, all in Santa Maria.
It also funded the Public Safety Training Complex at the Lompoc Valley Center along with millions of dollars in new technology for the community college.