Behind the ceremonial shovels and hard hats set up for Thursday’s groundbreaking for the university’s new residence hall complex, earth movers and other pieces of heavy equipment were already on the scene preparing for construction to begin.

Students (and Roary the Lion) were invited to turn over ceremonial shovels of dirt to kick off the project.

Students (and Roary the Lion) were invited to turn over ceremonial shovels of dirt to kick off the project.

“It’s a very exciting day for us,” said Interim President Dr. Alan Marble, during opening remarks to kick off the project.

He noted that the groundbreaking was originally set for Monday but was postponed in the aftermath of the tornadoes that hit the area on Sunday. The first priority, he said, was making sure the 40 university students from the impacted areas were safe.

“This residence hall project is no different,” said Marble. “We have the best intentions of our students at heart. It will be more than just a building. It will be a home.”

The three-story complex, to be located north of Newman Road and east of International Boulevard, will feature 51 student apartments throughout six buildings, the vast majority of which will be four bedrooms. Each bedroom will have its own bathroom, and students will share a common living area and full kitchen. Each apartment will also have its own washer and dryer.

The exterior of the complex will include an open courtyard and common areas, a pedestrian-friendly design and parking on the back side.

Last month, the university’s Board of Governors approved the sale of $29 million in bonds, $14 million of which will be used for construction of the residence hall.

Joplin’s R.E. Smith will serve as the construction manager and contractor.

The project will allow more than 200 students to call the university home, said Darren Fullerton, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management.

The new residence hall complex is expected to be completed in time for the start of the fall 2015 semester.

The new residence hall complex is expected to be completed in time for the start of the fall 2015 semester.

“All of the amenities our students are used to at home we’ll be proud to offer at Missouri Southern,” he said.

Tyler Roby, the head resident assistant for the Residence Hall Association, talked about the years he spent living on campus and the benefits it can hold for students.

“It’s wonderful to be able to step out your door and connect with your peers,” Roby said. “Not to mention the convenience of being able to get out of bed 10 minutes before class and run across the street.”