Does UAA really need to build a new sports complex?

New sports center necessary for athletic growth

By Suzanna Caldwell

When Gov. Sarah Palin vetoed the building of the new sports center, she also vetoed the chance to make UAA a shining example of athletics in our community.

Currently, the Wells Fargo Sports Complex is the secondhand shop of athletic facilities. A rubber ring around the hockey rink serves as a track. Old racquetball courts are used as weight rooms, and visiting teams end up pushing UAA teams out of their locker rooms for home games.

That is not to say that improvements haven’t been made. The gym floor is currently in the process of being remodeled. It only took 24 years.

Having our hockey games and major basketball tournaments take place at the Sullivan Arena instead of on our own campus causes a disconnect between students and athletics. These are UAA events that are not taking place on the UAA campus. They take place miles away, in a setting that is not conducive to creating true UAA pride. The cold grey cement walls do nothing to help inspire pride in a community that only has one major public university.

If the budget had not been cut, and the complex built, UAA would have a superior athletic facility that would encourage some of Alaska’s own outstanding prep players to stay in Alaska. With the current facility, it is no wonder local athletes choose other schools out of state, regardless of the outstanding programs located in Anchorage. Superior athletic facilities can be a major factor when athletes decide where to attend school. Showing off a building that was built in the late ’70s as our featured facility cannot inspire much hope in future recruits.

Coming from the governor that appointed a hockey coach to the UAA board of regents, spearheaded the efforts to build the Wasilla Sports Complex and even named her own son Track, it seems strange that her administration would have vetoed UAA’s future athletic facility.

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The most visible part of UAA is the athletic community, and having no true home keeps it from growing. UAA athletics are steadily gaining more recognition, and it is time UAA had a physical embodiment of its outstanding athletic programs with an outstanding athletic facility.

Other projects should take precedence over sports arena

By Kyra Sherwood

The Wells Fargo Sports Complex is showing its age. But after so much has been said in the past year or so about budget-cutting, an expensive project to construct a building that isn’t strictly necessary seems like poor planning.

The current sports center isn’t as big or as fancy as the teams using it might wish, but it seems adequate for UAA’s needs. Gov. Palin, in vetoing the request for $1 million for planning of the new sports center, made a good point: “The university has a billion-dollar deferred maintenance project list, so we need to make sure we’re addressing deferred maintenance on existing structures as we weigh the need for new facilities.” And the total costs for building new sports facilities and renovating the existing one could total almost $100 million, a significant price tag considering the deferred maintenance list and the cost of the new Integrated Science Building.

True, some of these costs do come from different budgets, but UAA might not need to make extra requests like the one for planning funds if its administration made better use of existing money. And the appropriations UAA does receive could go toward projects more necessary than a giant sports arena. Expanding classes, improving the parking situation, helping lower student costs, assisting departments that have suffered from budget cuts, or even expanding the recycling program to take pressure off the student-run Recycling Club seem like worthier goals.

Or how about a different kind of building project? More covered walkways would make the campus more accessible, especially to handicapped students. With all the planning money that’s apparently needed for new buildings, spending more time taking Alaska weather into account would make sense too. Parking lots and sidewalks are covered in ice and snow in below-freezing temperatures for the bulk of both semesters, but even the new ISB includes a long walk to the main entrance from any parking space. UAA could save costs by building smarter, too – those designs on the Consortium Library front walkway, for instance, served no purpose and cracked immediately, costing more money when they had to be fixed over a year later.

A Web site overhaul could do more to attract students than better sports facilities, too. UAA’s current site is ugly and all but impossible to navigate, and the long-awaited – and expensive – MyUA Portal isn’t much better. Prospective students won’t know whether they want to attend if they can’t find what they need to know on UAA’s Web site.

A new sports arena is important, but other projects should take precedence. In the end, UAA doesn’t need a government grant as much as it needs a trimmed-down bureaucracy and better money-management skills.

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