While Alaska construction workers wait, unemployed and unhappy, our schools are in desperate need of a face-lift. Proposition B was put forward to solve both of these problems. Now that it has passed, one question remains: What happens now?
Prop. B is a $397 million investment in education and research. This project will provide for projects for Southeast, Kenai, Anchorage, Mat-Su, Fairbanks and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
Among the more expensive projects are a lab and life sciences building at University of Alaska Fairbanks, an art and learning center at the Mat-Su campus, student housing and a career and technical education center at Kenai Peninsula College, various renovations at the Prince William Sound community College in Valdez and a community arena and athletic building for the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Administrators and students are pleased with the Election Day results.
“This proposition has given us a welcome infusion of capital project money for us,” Bill Spindle said, Vice Chancellor of UAA. “For UAA, in the community athletic facility, but it is also great for our community campuses who haven’t had much capital money in a long time.”
Through this proposition, UAA is provided with $60 million to build a new athletic facility suitable for a university of its size. This means more space for practicing, instructional classes and possible space for a concert on campus.
“It passed with a wide margin, with lots of support from the community in Anchorage. At the big picture level, I think this indicates a validation of what we knew was out there, and that is that the people of Alaska think that education is important and that the University is a key part of that,” Mike Driscoll said, the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at UAA.
The first project to move forward will be the life sciences building at UAF. The schematic designs have been approved, so the project is on its way to becoming a reality, according to Driscoll.
“I am grateful that the voters said yes to Prop. B, and that the Legislature unanimously passed the legislation putting these projects on the ballot. Each project responds to different local and state needs,” Fran Ulmer said, Chancellor of UAA.
Over the next few months, officials at UAA will be getting things in front of the right committees for approval. A couple of internal discussions about how to stage these projects appropriately are the next step for the university, according to Driscoll.
Through this process, the details of the arena will be nailed down; the next stage will be designing and digging in.
“We want to make sure we’re doing the best job possible to spend the state’s money wisely,” Driscoll said.
As far as challenges for the next steps forward, there are a lot of big projects to manage. Getting the pieces lined up properly will take a significant investment of time.
“In reality, we still don’t have all the money we need. We’re still in the concept stages, but we may need more to build a building that will last 50 years,” Spindle said.
Spindle went on to say that UAA may need another $25 to $35 million, but that will require going back to the legislature for more funds soon. All the projects are still in their initial design phases. They still need approval on the design work have more planning to do for the arena.
This is beginning to sound like a long wait, but according to Spindle, “We have to spend the bond money within three years.”
So within that amount of time, at least $60 million will have been spent on this arena. At that point, things will definitely be set in motion and be visible to the UAA community.
This facility will mean 130,000 square feet of space for athletics and student activities – five gyms, seating for 5,600 and the opportunity to have a school dance on campus. This arena will be the only generally mid-size arena in town. Thus, for events that don’t make sense for the Sullivan arena, but that make more sense for our students, this will be the go-to place, according to Spindle.
There will be areas for students to work out, and it will be located right next to student housing at the corner of Elmore Road and Providence Drive, according to Spindle.
“The sports arena on the Anchorage campus is long overdue for a student body our size, with many different space and use requirements,” Ulmer said.
“One of the main things that has been shown to influence where students choose to go to school has been athletics and recreation facilities. I think we’ll see the ability to attract even more students and that even more Alaskans will choose to stay in Alaska for school,” Driscoll said.
Driscoll believes that this project will bring more community involvement to the university, which will strengthen the part of student life that is based on these shared venues. Through this project, UAA’s campus should become a great deal more active.