LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (August 25, 2010) -- Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) is in the midst of the largest construction project in the hospital's history. Construction of the four-story, 258,000 square-foot patient tower, the South Wing, began in September 2008 and is targeted for completion in the summer of 2012. Today representatives from ACH, Cromwell Architects Engineers, and Nabholz Construction gathered for a traditional topping out ceremony to celebrate the placement of the final steel beam atop the building's frame. Cromwell designed the new wing and Nabholz is constructing the expansion.
"What a great day in the history of Arkansas Children's Hospital. We can hardly wait to make more space and more services available to our patients and families," said Jonathan Bates, MD, president and CEO of Arkansas Children's Hospital. "We've had our challenges in recent years to be able to meet the demand for bed space. Soon, we hope to be able to meet that need and provide more space and enhanced services that will get our children out of the hospital and back to being kids."
Hundreds of supporters that included staff, donors and families, attended the topping out ceremony that marked a milestone in the hospital's growth. The event gave participants the opportunity to sign one of two final construction beams, each covered in thousands of signatures and well-wishes, and be a part of the hospital's history. ACH Board of Directors Chairman Dorsey Jackson made a surprise announcement of a significant philanthropic gift of $5 million from Arkansas-based J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. The gift is designated specifically for the second floor of the new South Wing, which will house clinics for neurology, audiology, ENT and dental. Kirk Thompson, president and CEO of J.B. Hunt, was on hand to sign the beam following the announcement.
"We are delighted to be able to provide a contribution to Arkansas Children's Hospital toward the construction of this much-needed addition," said Thompson. "The hospital does such a wonderful job and plays an important role in the lives of J.B. Hunt employees and their families. We are pleased to be a part of helping expand their world-class facilities and making their services available to a larger number of people across all of Arkansas."
One child who repeatedly has needed the services of Arkansas' only pediatric hospital is 3-year-old John Hardin Bale, IV, who uses multiple services at ACH and has since birth. Bale comes from a family who has served Arkansas Children's Hospital for four generations and he had a very important role during today's event. Assisted by Charles Nabholz of Nabholz Construction, Bale instructed the operator of the yellow, multi-story construction crane to "lift that beam!" With that command, the giant "I" beam decorated with thousands of signatures and well wishes was lifted high into the air to be permanently positioned in its appropriate place on the southwest corner of the new patient tower. Cheers roared as the giant crane hoisted the beam into place, giving a lift to a toy replica of the hospital's wayfinding dog, Scout, and a ceremonial evergreen sapling. Traditionally, a sapling - often an evergreen - is placed atop the building's frame during a topping out ceremony to celebrate the milestone of reaching the highest point in construction and to represent good luck for the remainder of the project.
"This is an exciting day for us," said Charles Nabholz, chairman of the board of Nabholz Construction. "We are proud to share a role in this monumental project that will allow Arkansas' only children's hospital to provide care to even more patients in our state."
The South Wing will create an additional 54 inpatient beds, expanding the hospital's pediatric Heart Center and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and increasing the total bed availability to 370. Also included in the new $115 million wing are new and relocated Hematology/ Oncology and Infant-Toddler units, as well as a new Emergency Department with an orthopedics suite, decontamination unit and dedicated trauma rooms. Expanded clinic space will include 56 new exam rooms and 19 additional procedural or diagnostic rooms. The South Wing was funded through cash reserves, philanthropic donations and bonds.
Children's Hospital is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children. The campus spans 29 city blocks and houses 316 beds, a staff of approximately 500 physicians, 80 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,200 employees. The private, nonprofit healthcare facility boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking medical research - all dedicated to fulfilling our mission of enhancing, sustaining and restoring children's health and development.ACH is ranked 85th on the 2010 FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For®. For more information, visit