UAA’s long awaited sports complex named Alaska Airlines Center

Junior basketball guard Kyle Fossman speaks on behalf of UAA Athletics as the first recipient of Alaska Airlines’ new scholarship. (Photos by Tim Brown)
Junior basketball guard Kyle Fossman speaks on behalf of UAA Athletics as the first recipient of Alaska Airlines’ new scholarship. (Photos by Tim Brown)

by Ashley Snyder and J. Almendarez

Chancellor Tom Case stood in front of a crowd of about 50 students, staff, faculty and members of the community on March 21 to make a big announcement about the highly anticipated sports complex. It is officially named the Alaska Airlines Center.

“Once open, the Alaska Airlines Center will provide tremendous opportunities for our students and will be a significant community asset, both locally and statewide,” Case said during the unveiling. “This university-industry partnership with Alaska Airlines will help ensure our students’ academic and athletic success.”

UAA has a long history with Alaska Airlines having had a partnership with them for over 30 years. The airline has been in operation for 35 years. UAA just negotiated a 10-year contract worth $6.8 million with the airline.

Marilyn Romano, Alaska Airlines’ Regional Vice President, said she began working at her current position in August 2011. She said the ball egan rolling to find a name for the complex about two days after she began her job.

Case later said no other businesses were solicited for a possible partnership.

“Alaska Airlines was clearly a great fit,” he said.

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The contract with Alaska Airlines includes $1 million in endowed scholarships for UAA’s student athletes.

The athletic sponsorship contract also commits the company to add an additional $5.3 million for the course of the next decade with the option for an additional five years.

Kyle Fossman, junior guard for the Seawolves’ basketball team, and Katelynn Zanders, freshman outside hitter and middle blocker for the Seawolves’ volleyball team, are the first recipients of the scholarship.

During Fossman’s speech, he said if it weren’t for the financial assistance he’s received over the course of his academic career, he would not have been able to successfully complete his degree.

Zanders said, “I am proud to be a Seawolf, and I never pass up the opportunity to say so.”

President Pat Gamble also spoke at the ceremony saying, “…I guarantee you that besides having a winning partner in Alaska Airlines we’re going to have a lot of winners come out of that stadium.”

The Alaska Airlines Center, currently a mass of steel and concrete framework, is set to open in August 2014.

When completed, the 196,000 sq. foot facility will be the home of a 5,600 seat arena, an auxiliary gym, fitness and training facilities, performance gym and large locker rooms for sports teams, as well as office space and a medicine facility.

UAA student athletes gather to commemorate the naming of the new building.
UAA student athletes gather to commemorate the naming of the new building.

“I think it’s great that we have so much support from large businesses like ConocoPhillips and Alaska Airlines,” Kelsey Green, an undeclared sophomore said.

The Alaska Airlines Center will not only be for students and athletes.

It will be a big benefit to those in the community.

The center will host larger games for high school athletic events.

It will also function as a venue for other special events, concerts, conferences, camps, craft fairs and more.

Several members of the community showed their support at the presentation as well.

“I’m not a student, but I think the community has a part in this and they should take advantage of that,” said community member Olivia Bloomsburg. “At least come here, clap your hands, be involved.”

Although many students and community members are disgruntled at the fact that the new arena will not house an ice rink, people like Bloomsburg acknowledge that it will still be a step in the right direction for giving UAA a new image.

Bloomsburg said, “Despite a few issues, it will open new doors for UAA that’s for sure.”