Medical center officially completes expansion

Published 6:25 pm Saturday, June 14, 2008

It’s official. The Albert Lea Medical Center Patient Services expansion is complete.

“This is just a grand day for the Albert Lea Medical Center and the city of Albert Lea,” said medical center CEO Dr. Mark Ciota at the official dedication Friday night.

Ciota said the expansion was a community project successfully completed for a community hospital.

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“You have my commitment that it’s going to be the best clinic and hospital it can be,” he said.

The groundbreaking was Sept. 1, 2006.

With two floors in the main section of the clinic adding 30,000 square feet each and an additional 40,000 square feet in the retail section off the rotunda, the total expansion comes to 100,000 square feet.

In the last year and a half, the medical center grew by 30 percent, according to principal architect Gary Nyberg.

“Right now our dream has come true,” Ciota said.

The new expansion includes two floors of the clinic housing family practice, occupational medicine and the same day clinic on the fourth floor. Neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics and podiatry are located on the new fifth floor.

A new retail corridor was added to the medical center with a new main entrance at the rotunda. It houses the ALMC store, an expanded pharmacy, eye services and Vision Plus, a gift shop, a coffee shop, the Health Information Center and a grand staircase leading down to the lower level.

Nyberg said one of the missions of the expansion was to create public and retail space easily accessible to everyone.

Going down the grand staircase, visitors will see the art wall with backlit greenery built into the wall.

Unveiled Friday evening was the donor wall listing the donors who contributed to the current expansion. Above, a mural highlights Albert Lea’s history through pictures — a scene reminiscent of that along a hallway at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester leading to the Gonda Building. On an adjacent wall is a flat-screen TV with photos and names of all previous donors to the medical center.

Ciota and his family — daughters Alex and Morgan and wife Allison — dedicated the grand piano in the lower level to his and Allison’s parents, Robert and Melissa Ciota and Wayne and K Erickson.

Ciota said he hopes patients will hear the music played on the piano and feel better mentally, emotionally and physically.

Dr. Michael Eckstrom and his wife, Nicole, donated a commissioned painting by local artist Troy Doyle to the medical center and expansion Friday.

The painting, “The Passing of the Torch,” is of the original Naeve Hospital entrance and will hang somewhere in the new expansion.

“I think it means a lot to the community. I think it bonds the community,” Michael Eckstrom said.

“We wanted to contribute to the success of the community, to support what we believe in,” added Nicole.

Doyle said he wanted a theme and topic to his painting that honored the staff and the community that allowed the medical center to thrive in Albert Lea. The painting, he said, is in honor of those who opened doors for others.

“What will you leave behind for others to expand upon? What will be your legacy?” the artist read from the dedication plaque.

The entire expansion cost $19 million, said Director of Community Relations Patti Hareid. Of the total, $16 million was saved by the medical center over the past 10 years. Hareid said employees donated more than $250,000.

So far, community members and businesses donated $2 million. In the last leg of fundraising, the medical center is looking for $1 million in donations from the general public.

The Albert Lea community has had an inspired vision of health care for more than 100 years, said Marg Hamersly, who spoke on behalf of the capital campaign.

The expansion was built when staff and the community recognized the need for more providers, services and space, Hamersly said.

“I think it’s a great asset to the community,” Nyberg said. “It shows great vision by the medical center staff to establish the vision that can then be realized.”

The architects and designer Dan Polachek were from Hammel, Green and Abrahamson with offices in Minneapolis and Rochester.