PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Gulf Coast State College officials kicked off a new academic era Thursday for future students. They broke ground on the new 25-million-dollar STEM building. This day has been 10 years in the making.

Until this year, students studying science at Gulf Coast State College attended class in a building built in the 1950s. The natural sciences classrooms and labs were old and outdated.

College officials proposed a new STEM facility in 2012, but it’s taken the last 10 years to get funding from the legislature. Thursday, the STEM building went from a proposal to reality.

It’s taken a lot of planning to get to this groundbreaking. There have been dozens of meetings between the architect and the people who will be using the facility.

“The faculty came together,” GCSC Interim President Flax-Hyman said. “They had many discussions on what they needed, what students will need in the future, and how we accommodate that. What are the careers in STEM. How do we make sure we collaborate with the learning communities. We’re not just building a building for today. We’re building one that we hope takes us into the future.”

The 40,000-square-foot building will have three floors, a concrete form, and exterior walls designed to withstand disasters.

“The forms we used and the concrete, steel, and the fabrication process with steel and everything, it’s designed and tested,” Superintendent of Burke Construction Group Tim Evans said. “A lot of research went into making it withstand hurricanes.”

The new addition will provide students and staff with ample office space, classrooms, and 10- state of the art science labs.

“Primarily science labs that will house everything from microbiology, biology, chemistry, and physics,” President for Florida Architects, Joseph Sorce, said. So, all the sciences will be taken care of.”

Construction should begin around the first of the year. The facility should be ready for students by the spring of 2024.