Hundreds of workers in scrubs and lab coats watched from surrounding buildings Wednesday as a young St. John's Hospital patient and several hospital officials took turns at the controls of a huge backhoe to kick off the Springfield hospital's $172.4 million renovation project.
"St. John's has always prepared for the future," St. John's chief executive officer Bob Ritz said at the ceremonial beginning of the three-year project. "Today we celebrate another major milestone on our journey to excellence."
Ritz was one of the people who broke glass and knocked down bricks to start demolition of several buildings at St. John's to make room for new surgical areas.
The first person at the controls of the Spiritas backhoe was Derrick Davis, 5, of Springfield.
Derrick's mother, Rebecca Smith, 22, said her son was treated recently at St. John's for leukemia.
"He loves it here," said Smith, who attended the ceremony with her husband, Mark Smith, 29, and their two other children, Derrianna Davis, 5, and Tyler Smith, 1.
After he worked the controls with the help of Spiritas employee Ron Stevens, Derrick said breaking glass on the vacant building at 326 N. Seventh St. was fun.
Ritz said it was appropriate for a patient to be part of the beginning of the most expensive project in the 136-year history of St. John's.
"It's all about the family, it's about health care, it's about the community," Ritz said.
The project is scheduled for completion in 2014. Infrastructure work for the project began last summer.
About 275 St. John's employees have been moved to facilities that include trailers on the northern section of the hospital campus. Some outpatient services have been relocated elsewhere in Springfield to allow for demolition of several buildings on the campus, one of them 97 years old.
The St. John's Pavilion building will be expanded to accommodate the new areas, which will span Mason Street and connect to the main patient-care tower on the north side of Mason.
About 300 construction jobs will be created during the project, which will add $324 million to the economy of central Illinois. The project won't create any new permanent jobs at the 431-bed hospital, which employs 3,012 people.
St. John's Hospital renovation plan
*$121.2 million renovation of surgical areas: Officially began Wednesday and is to be completed in summer 2013. Construction will add 140,264 square feet; 30,000 square feet of existing space will be renovated.
The project will create 16 new surgical suites, replacing inpatient surgical areas established in 1969-70. Also included will be a new satellite in-house pharmacy, central sterilization area, offices, conferences and space for a future new emergency department.
*$51.2 million renovation of four floors in the 13-story patient-care tower: Expected to begin later this year and be completed in 2014.
The renovations, covering 120,000 square feet on the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth floors of the tower, will allow all patients on those floors to have private rooms. New rooms will be clustered for patients with similar needs. Visiting and waiting areas also will be improved.
The tower is made up of sections originally constructed in 1939 and 1970.
*St. John's officials plan to finance the plan with borrowing, savings, investment revenue and future revenues. They say the project won't increase patients' health-care costs.
Video of the ceremonial demolition
An animated aerial tour of St. John's Hospital's construction project is available at http://tinyurl.com/stjohnsvideo.
More photos of St. John's Hospital renovations: http://www.sj-r.com/photo_galleries/x464041448/St-Johns-Hospital-Renovation
Photo one: Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register -- St. John's Hospital President and CEO Bob RItz takes out a few layers of brick and glass as he ran a track hoe during a ceremony to begin demolition of the 326 N. 7th Street building for St. John's $172.4 million renovation project in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, April 27, 2011. The project will take four years to complete, and will involve the construction of the new Surgery Center as well as a complete renovation of four floors of the patient tower.
Photo two: Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register -- A track hoe from Spirtas Wrecking, out of St. Louis, Mo., begins demolition of the 326 N. 7th Street building for St. John's $172.4 million renovation project during a ceremony in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, April 27, 2011. The project will take four years to complete, and will involve the construction of the new Surgery Center as well as a complete renovation of four floors of the patient tower.