When Sara Wallet-Loyd was a California State University, Fresno construction management student in the early 1990s, little did she dream she would return to campus one day to help lead one of the most ambitious and far-reaching projects for the university and the San Joaquin Valley.

The 1994 grad has come home to help ensure that the world class $103 million Save Mart Center is one of the best-built facilities in the nation – a goal she is charged to diligently pursue in her role as a project manager for the Clark Construction Group.

The California State University, Fresno Association announced last month that Clark will be the builder for the premier sports and entertainment center. At a press conference today, the association and the contractor will formally announce the signing of the contract to set the stage for the first major construction activity next week.

Wallet-Loyd came on campus two months ago to set up shop – her office trailers are on the Save Mart Center site at Shaw and Chestnut – along with senior project manager David Simonton, Clark Construction superintendent Bill Casselman and an office staff of eight that will grow to about 12.

They have been preparing for the arrival of major heavy equipment to excavate the 33-foot-deep hole that will serve as the arena bowl.

Today, she will join her Clark colleagues in showing the site to Fresno State President John Welty and Association Executive Director Debbie Adishian-Astone, as well as some of the construction phasing diagrams at a press conference announcing the formal signing of the construction contract.

Wallet-Loyd has been immersed in the two-year project that started with site improvement this summer and will see its first major action this month when the first six scrapers arrive to begin what Simonton calls the biggest swimming pool in the valley.

He said 260,000 cubic yards of dirt will come flying out of the arena hole that will be 33-feet deep and 550 feet long by 300 feet wide. Some of the dirt, 150,000 cubic yards, will go back into the hole to surround the concrete structure but otherwise the Save Mart site will become an instant mountain range.

Wallet-Loyd has been anxiously awaiting this moment and the opportunity to represent her company at her alma mater.

“I feel that the Clark Construction Group can give the university the very best facility it deserves,” Wallet-Loyd said. “I want that to happen both as a professional representing Clark and as a Fresno State alumna.”

Wallet-Loyd will handle such business matters as the budget and serving as a liaison between subcontractors, the architect and the owner.

Wallet-Loyd joined Clark in 1999. When she learned that her company would be the Save Mart Center contractor, she asked her vice president, Joelle Hertel, for the opportunity to work at the project.

“It’s a rare opportunity to work on an arena in the first place, but in your hometown at your own alma mater is a challenge I could not pass up!” Wallet-Loyd said.

She sees her role with the Save Mart Center as an opportunity to give something back to Fresno State.

“My experience here at Fresno State was fantastic,” she said. “The construction management program, the faculty, every aspect was great. I value the education I received here.”

Wallet-Loyd credits Dr. Frank Goishi, Fresno State construction management professor, and her adviser, for encouraging her, especially since few females were in the construction profession.

Less than 10 years after graduating, she has built an impressive resumé.

Most recently, she was assigned to the Fresno Community Hospital addition for Clark Construction in downtown Fresno; the Corcoran State Prison addition for the Ray Wilson Company of Pasadena; and the Lemoore Naval Air Station hospital replacement for Soltek Pacific of San Diego. She started her career with Sandalwood Construction Company of Fresno.

Sharing equal credit for Wallet-Loyd’s success are her parents, George and Corinne Wallet, who are both Fresno-area pharmacists.

As a child, her father ignited in her a curiosity for “how things are put together” by teaching her how to use tools when fixing or building things around the house.

Her mother was a role model, entering the pharmacy profession in an era when few women were in that field.

Wallet-Loyd’s self-proclaimed tomboy tendencies reached a milestone of sorts at the age of 23, when her father bought her a cordless Makita drill for her birthday.

“My parents argued over that one because Mom said I should get something more feminine,” Wallet-Loyd recalls with affection. “But she saw how happy and excited I was when I opened it. I was so thrilled to get such a high quality tool, so she knew then it was the right gift, and I had made the right career choice.”

She said her parents influenced those choices.

“They taught me that with an education and hard work, you can get anything done,” Wallet-Loyd said. Now her challenge to excel and succeed is driven by that passion for her chosen profession.

“Professionally, there is nothing more exciting than starting with a big piece of dirt like we have here, building a quality product – on time, within budget – and turning it over to the owner knowing you have given them the best possible product for their money,” Wallet-Loyd said.

Wallet-Loyd’s ties to Fresno State sports facilities go deep. Her grandparents, Hagop and Naomi Bujulian, were donors to the Bulldog Stadium drive in the late ’70s. She often enjoys Bulldog football in one of the four seats that bear their names in the red section.

Sara and her husband, Todd Loyd, a medical assistant, were married in March 2000 and reside in Fresno.