Planned sports complex expansion shelved until 2006

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Despite all the construction commotion in the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, the building isn’t undergoing an expansion project anytime soon. Due to a lack of funding and an unfinished plan proposal, an expansion project that will add 10,000 square feet to the facility will begin in summer 2006 at the earliest.

“We’re a ways away from it,” said Cyndi Spear, associate vice chancellor for facilities and campus services. “We can’t do anything until we have the money in place. The earliest we’ll break ground is next summer if all the stars align. It’s not an if, it’s a when.”

Spear said the money wouldn’t come from legislature especially with a new science building being UAA’s focus in Juneau. The university will look to fund the project through a creative mix of student fees, debt and appropriation and campus funds.

“Not all the additions benefit the students so it won’t be all student fees,” Spear said. “We can’t put everything on the backs of the students.”

The sports complex addition, originally proposed on its own, was packaged with additions to the Student Union and the UAA Bookstore into one expansion project. The combination occurred because the sport complex and the Student Union building were classified as a megaplex when it was built in 1978.

The projected price tag for the entire project is approximately $16 million. The sports complex expansion could cost an estimated $8 to $12 million to complete, Spear said.

The project will include a 5,000 square foot, two-story addition to the front of the building that would include a climbing tower and an expanded fitness area. A second 5,000 square foot, two-story addition on the backside of the building will include five team rooms and office space.

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The improvements would address a number of concerns for both UAA students and administration.

The sports complex was built in 1978 and was designed as a community college recreation facility. The sports complex now acts as the home of UAA athletics, a student recreation facility and the classrooms for most courses offered by the physical education department.

UAA is now the largest campus, enrollment-wise, in the university system with 45 percent of the student population in Anchorage. The athletic department, which was in its infancy in 1978, now includes 11 Division I and II sports programs. Plus there are more PE classes offered now than ever before.

“The university has grown but the box hasn’t changed,” said Dennis Stauffer, director of recreational sports.

Stauffer is in charge of scheduling for the facility. The headache of scheduling leaves Stauffer as frustrated as the parties he schedules for.

“I’m there with them,” he said of the need for expansion of the sports complex and a new facility in the future.

UAA students that actively use the facility aren’t satisfied with the times available or the space to work out. Dustin Voss, a sophomore science and technology major, isn’t sure an expansion is the answer. He said that it is crazy to have everyone share the same building.

“They need to quit trying to make temporary fixes,” Voss said.

Student anger over the facility use is likely caused by the fact that UAA’s near 20,000 students are the last priority when scheduling the facility.

“The schedule is made with the PE classes in mind first, then the sports teams and finally recreation and intramural sports,” Stauffer said.

The addition that includes a climbing tower and fitness area will help solve some student concerns. Spear said a climbing wall or tower has been the most requested addition by students.

Voss said his friends that climb use Alaska Pacific University’s climbing wall, because they offer UAA students a discount rate of $40 per semester.

Because of the shortcomings on campus, many students resort to paying fees to private gyms such as the Alaska Club to meet their fitness needs.

The current fitness area has a limited amount of space, which means there is a limited amount of equipment. The climbing tower will take up less space than a climbing wall, which leaves plenty of space for treadmills, free weights and other fitness equipment. It will all be housed in a triangular addition that features two walls of windows, a dramatic improvement over the windowless fitness area used now.

The locker room expansions will ease UAA athletic department concerns regarding NCAA regulations. Currently, Seawolf female athletes are given less per person square locker room footage than their male counterparts.

The women’s cross country, skiing and gymnastics teams share one locker room, while women’s volleyball and basketball split another. Women’s track and field athletes use the public locker room. By contrast, the men’s hockey and basketball teams have their own locker rooms.

The disparity puts UAA at risk of violating the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans sex discrimination from taking place in schools in the areas of athletics or academics.

Stauffer said that the NCAA wouldn’t impose any penalties on the athletic department because plans are in place to address the locker room concerns.

“We’re showing good faith,” he said.

Stauffer stressed that the department would be expanding locker room space regardless of NCAA rules.

“We want to do it for them,” Stauffer said of the women’s teams that currently share space.

When the expansion is complete, the PE department will have office and classroom space in the facility. The offices of PE department are presently located in the Eugene Short Hall.

The construction that is taking place in the sports complex is a $500,000 renovation of the ice rink. The refrigeration system on the 25-year-old rink needed to be replaced and .

The rink closure has further complicated matters for Stauffer. The UAA hockey team now must hold its practices off-campus plus the department has lost $92,000 in potential income by not being able to rent out the rink. Besides the rink issues, the rest of the facility has been given minor facelifts over the years such as new liner for the pool, a new wood floor for the gymnasium and a remodeled weight room.

“The upkeep has been fine,” Stauffer said.

Clint Helander contributed to this story.