At 11 a.m. Wednesday, it was 62 degrees and sunny, unusual for the third week of November.
It would have been the perfect day to hold a groundbreaking outside, especially at a scenic site in south Lincoln.
Because of surging COVID-19 cases, however, Bryan Health officials were instead inside, announcing the latest updates to one of their biggest projects in decades over Zoom.
"We so wish we would have been there rather than at this podium," said Bob Ravenscroft, Bryan's vice president for advancement.
Having to do a virtual announcement didn't diminish the significance of Wednesday's formal unveiling of a $45 million comprehensive cancer treatment center.
The 140,000-square-foot facility will be built on nearly 29 acres at 40th Street and Rokeby Road, land that was donated by Sampson Construction founder John Sampson and his daughter, Cori Vokoun.
A major part of Wednesday's event was the public announcement of a $20 million private fundraising campaign. Half of that will go toward construction of the cancer center, while the other half will fund an endowment to pay for programs.
The first $10 million is needed to get construction on the project going, and Bryan revealed Wednesday that it's already raised $7.4 million, which leaves officials confident that they will have the money needed to start construction by next summer.
That would mean the facility would likely be open and ready for patients sometime in mid- to late-2023. Ravenscroft said there are about 9,000 cancer patients a year in its four-county primary service area, and about half currently seek cancer care outside Lincoln.
The center will offer infusion, imaging and other cancer-related services. It also will have a dedicated breast cancer treatment program and will offer clinical trials. Other features will include gyms for rehabilitation and therapy, a clinical pharmacy and genetic counseling services.
It will be a place, Ravenscroft said, "where many, many, many people will beat cancer someday."
Bryan earlier this year hired Susan Schreiner to be the director of the cancer center. Schreiner had previously been the oncology services director at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha.
Bryan is partnering with Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center, which is one of the largest practices in Lincoln specializing in cancer care, with seven medical oncologists and two radiation oncologists on staff.
Dr. Nate Green, one of the oncologists with Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center, said one of the most important aspects of the new center is that it solves a big problem with cancer care in Lincoln, which is that services are often fragmented, requiring patients to go all over town.
"We feel that healing happens best in the comfort of familiar surroundings," Green said.
"This new center is a huge step toward improving the coordination of care and the patient experience," he said.
The cancer center will occupy about one-third of the land, with the rest slated for future medical office and other development. The entire site will be known as Bryan South Campus.
Bryan Health President and CEO Russ Gronewold said the location is perfect.
One, "it's right where Lincoln is headed in its growth," he said.
"I'm sure 10 years from now, we'll be surrounded by a lot of different things there," Gronewold said.
Gronewold also noted that the site, which is about a mile north of the South Beltway, will be easy to get to, not just for people in Lincoln but also those coming from other counties.
Sampson and Vokoun, who were not able to participate in the virtual news conference, said in a news release that donating the land for a cancer center was important to them.
April Sampson, John's wife and Cori's mother, died in 2016 at age 66 after battling breast cancer for many years.
"She would have really appreciated that this facility will make it better for everyone else in her shoes because it’s a really tough road," Vokoun said.
“Donating this land is a way to not only give back to Bryan, but to our entire community."
Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.
Build your health & fitness knowledge
Sign up here to get the latest health & fitness updates in your inbox every week!