A new sports complex for UAA requires hurdling

The Well’s Fargo Sports Complex hosts numerous sporting events, but as UAA grows, many are finding it too small to house events, training and recreation comfortably.

The complex was built more than 30 years ago and was not designed to accommodate Division I and Division II athletics, let alone the number of students and alumni that make use of the facilities.

Last year, in response to the growing pains, UAA drafted a proposal for two new sports arenas and a retrofit on the current arena that would entail a bigger recreation center.

“There was a survey done and it seemed that not just students, but the community in general was in strong support of a new university sports center,” vice chancellor for Administrative Services Bill Spindle said.

A survey conducted by the Ivan Moore Company found that 85 percent of those polled were in strong favor of new sports and recreation facilities.

The problem was location. Initially, the new sports center was to be built on top of wetlands.

“There was a large public outcry regarding locale,” said Spindle. “So we had to do some research and come up with a new, less controversial one.”

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The wooded lot at the corner of Elmore Road and Providence Drive is slated to be the new location. There have been no complaints registered so far.

According to Spindle, there was some deliberation over the size of the original proposal and what it would cost. It was sent back and redrafted into a public recreation center within one sports arena and renovations made to the existing complex.
The forecasted cost for the design and construction of the sports center, as well as the renovations to the Wells Fargo Sports Complex is $80 million.

“The funding for the new sports center doesn’t come from the university or student fees or tuition,” said Spindle. “It comes strictly from the Anchorage Municipality.”
The proposed budget of $15 million for the design of the new sports arena was approved and paid by the Municipality last year.
UAA still needs $65 million for implementation.

The proposal for the final amount was sent to the Board of Regents for approval last month. It consisted of two phases.

According to the schematics posted on the UAA Website, Phase I would be the construction of a 130,000 square foot facility to accommodate 11 of the 12 intercollegiate sports, excluding hockey. It would feature a three-court gymnasium that could also be used as a 3,500-seat performance gym for basketball, volleyball and other events.

Phase I also includes a running track and a fitness center.

The second phase of the project entails the complete renovation to the pre-existing sports arena that would increase seating capacity for a hockey rink, with conversion capabilities to accommodate the annual Great Alaska Shootout.

According to Spindle, construction is slated to begin in 2010, with a goal of being completed in one year.

There are numerous factors, however that can impede the project.

The Board of Regents approved the university’s sports arena proposal in October, and packaged it into an overall UA capital spending plan. The request was sent to the Governor’s Office this month.

“The governor takes our operating request and she decides what she’s going to include in her operating plan,” said Kate Ripley, director of Public Affairs for the UA System.

“She usually unveils her budget to the public in mid-December,” said Ripley.

There are three proposals, however, within the capital spending plan that takes precedence over the sports complex. Ripley said that with over 600 buildings across the state, maintenance is always number one on the spending budget. This year it is proposed at $50 million.

A new Life Sciences Building at UAF for $82 million and a new, safer driveway to the UAS campus for $4 million are also prioritized over the new sports arena.
If Gov. Sarah Palin approves the UA capital budget, the proposal will then move from the executive branch to the legislative.

“When the Legislature goes into session in January, they’ll make the changes that they see necessary,” said Ripley.

The proposal will then go through a series of committees and votes, and the Governor has executive power to veto at any point.

“She can change numbers to something or nothing,” said Ripley. “But last year she went with the full maintenance proposal without a change. We’re hoping her numbers will be close this year, or the same as what we request.”

This year, as the governor drafts her 2009 budget, there are many fiscal issues to be taken into consideration, primarily the ailing economy.

Ripley said there is no way to make solid plans regarding the sports arena until the proposal gets through every hurdle.

“Until we get the money – until it’s built, really – we just have to see how it goes.”