Governor’s decisions affect UAA construction

Two of UAA’s largest construction planning hopes awaited the governor’s signature. One passed. One was vetoed.

Gov. Sarah Palin vetoed $230,942,817 from the 2008 fiscal year budget. This included $1 million for planning money to design a new UAA sports complex. It was one of only nine items vetoed with the reason “Creation of new facilities and programs.”

However, Palin approved $500,000 to begin planning a Health Sciences Building.

University officials are now moving forward with both projects. Their first priority is planning for the Health Sciences Building, but they are still trying to secure funding for the sports complex.

SPORTS COMPLEX: Little understanding of need blamed for rejection of funds

Disappointed and surprised is how university officials described their reaction to Palin’s veto of the planning money for a new sports complex.

Bill Spindle, interim vice chancellor for administrative services and chair of the sports complex planning team, said this is the first time he is aware of that a governor vetoed a money request for construction planning at UAA.

UAA director of athletics Steve Cobb said he was surprised by the veto.

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“We’re a state university, that’s how capital projects get funded,” Cobb said. “Our need is just so great. It’s so important to our future. I was fairly confident that we would get the planning money, which is just the first step. So I was surprised that something that’s so great a need was not addressed.”

Dave Shyiak, Seawolf hockey coach, said the Wells Fargo Sports Complex is inadequate. A new sports complex is important for recruiting. He said about 80 percent of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association has new facilities.

“We have an athletic and recreation facility that most high schools can outdo,” Spindle said.

Spindle said the university is in the middle of working on the 2009 fiscal year budget. UAA will submit a new planning request to the UA Board of Regents for $1 million. The Board of Regents approved the original request before sending it to the legislature.

“We are discouraged, but we aren’t giving up,” Spindle said. “We’re going to continue to go forward. We think this is an important project.”

Spindle said he is working with Cobb to make sure athletic needs are met in the potential facility. Money saved from not having to rent Sullivan Arena combined with funds from ticket sales will go toward running the facility. Spindle said that when not using the facility they plan to rent space out to those who need it.

The track team has no track. Each year the 16 to 18 home hockey games and the basketball Shootout tournament are held at the Sullivan Arena due to inadequate seating at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex. UAA also holds commencement ceremonies at the Sullivan Arena.

“We don’t have remotely close to what we need to serve our student population or our athletic department,” Cobb said.

Some planning can continue

Garnering input and support from university and community contacts is still a step the university can continue without planning money, Megan Olson, assistant vice chancellor of university relations, said.

Communicating the importance of the building is the next step, Spindle said. The planning team, made of representatives from academic affairs, advancement, facilities, and budget and finance, are working to discuss thoughts and concerns with university and outside stakeholders. External stakeholders include the municipality, mayor’s office, community councils, legislators, athletic boosters and U-Med members (medical and educational businesses and organizations near campus).

“The veto does slow down this initial planning,” Olson said. “We’re going to do everything we can to continue these essential pieces in planning so too much delay isn’t felt.”

Why does UAA need $1 million for planning? Spindle said that just starts planning. He said coming up with blueprints will take more financing. The $1 million will cover initial site surveys, decide location, check air and water quality, and complete initial schematic drawings.

Olson said a year’s worth of planning has been outlined. Stan Vanover, senior project manager for facilities planning and construction, said every project is different. The Integrated Science Building took 18 months to plan; the library was planned for over a year.

“We’ll take this step by step,” Olson said. “We’ll do as much planning as it takes.”

Vanover said the university used some general funds to get the project off the ground.

The only planning already completed is some communication with stakeholders and a survey mostly of students, which found what people want for recreation and athletics, Spindle said. The survey results gave enough information to create some conceptual drawings. Vanover said these designs are just options and nothing is guaranteed at this point.

Spindle said the survey painted a bigger long-term plan for athletics. The first step is the new sports complex, which would ideally house the competitive sports offices. This would allow room to enhance the Wells Fargo Sports Complex for recreational purposes, and at some point they hope to build a new recreation facility near campus housing.

A location for students and community

Shyiak said he thinks the new sports complex will create a college atmosphere that doesn’t currently exist at UAA. He said students sometimes don’t find out about off-campus events or have trouble finding transportation to them. There is also consideration into adding shops and food venues as seen at other colleges.

“If you had everything in one location, I think you could certainly tie the student involvement in a little bit more and have that atmosphere that other big-time programs have,” Shyiak said. “The more students involved, I think it will bring the campus closer together.”

The new arena is not just for UAA.

“We want this to be a community building,” Spindle said. “One of our goals is to reach out to the community with this and have a place for concerts. We want to have commencement there.”

Combining athletic success with a new facility will generate interest, Shyiak said. He thinks it will create a wanted student atmosphere and family atmosphere.

“Our goal is to make it a place that folks in Anchorage want to come,” Spindle said. “It would be a destination.”

HEALTH SCIENCES: Bulging health programs can stretch out in new facility

Planning has barely started for the Health Sciences Building. In September more will be known on the details of the building, but the need for the facility is clear. The College of Health and Social Welfare at UAA is busting at the seams.

“We really have no room to expand anything,” said Cheryl Easley, dean of the college. “We’re running out of office space for our faculty in several of our programs.”

Easley said that if every faculty position in the college were filled, she wouldn’t have enough offices for them. Last year when a director went on sabbatical, the interim director had to use the director’s office. When the director returned, she had no office and had to be placed in a cubical in the Diplomacy Building.

The College of Health and Social Welfare is spread across five campus locations: Beatrice McDonald Hall barely holds the Department of Human Services, Easley said. Most of the School of Nursing is packed in the Professional Studies Building. The exception is the Area Health Education Center located in the Diplomacy Building – a federally funded grant program that recruits young people into health careers, places health professional students in rural practicum sites, and provides education for practicing health professionals. The Diplomacy Building also houses the Department of Health Sciences, the Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies, the Center for Alcohol Addiction Studies, and Family Youth Services Training Academy – which is separated from the rest of the cramped Social Work program in the Gordon Hartlieb Hall. The justice program is currently in the Social Sciences Building but will probably move to the library.

“Bringing us together in one place will certainly be wonderful for the faculty to be able to interact and work together in a more effective way across the disciplines and the programs,” Easley said.

The College of Health and Social Welfare does not have the only health-related programs at UAA, Easley said. WWAMI, a multistate medical school, and clinical psychology are part of the College of Arts and Science. The Community and Technical College also offers some health programs.

Chris Turletes, associate vice chancellor for facilities and campus services, said the School of Nursing will probably be housed in the proposed building, but no decision has been made on which other health programs will be included.

Those health programs that move to the new facility will leave space behind that the campus can use for different purposes, Turletes said.

The new facility could also provide needed space for students.

Easley said considerations are research rooms, lab space and classrooms.

A dream that could never fit in current space restrictions is a simulation lab for multiple heath programs, Easley said. They also need lab space for the future distance-delivered occupational therapy program – a hoped alternative for nursing students.

Easley looks forward to a location where students and faculty from different health disciplines can meet and communicate.

“I think that would be tremendous,” Easley said. “And certainly having new, up-to-date facilities would be great for (students).”

Hope for nursing students

There is a two-year waiting list to enter the School of Nursing, even though the school has doubled its graduation rate from 98 students a year to a little over 200 students a year.

The limited number of graduates is due to faculty-to-student ratio restrictions by the State Board of Nursing and the limited availability for nursing students to be placed in clinical sites for practicum experience.

“It’s a number that’s been carefully coordinated between the university and providers around the state,” Easley said about the number of students the School of Nursing accepts.

“There’s a tremendous demand for nurses now across the country, and in many places in the country, schools are turning away qualified applicants because they do not have enough faculty,” Easley said. “The faculty shortage is as much a problem as the practicing nurse shortage around the country right now; it might even be worse.”

Easley said they are working to increase the number of clinic sites available for student practicum experience, but the new building will not help this aspect of the nursing wait.

There is a chance it could help indirectly, though. She said if practicum experience was available, the faculty shortage lifted and more staff was hired to meet the faculty-to-student ratio, more students could go through the program. However, to hire more faculty, the program would need increased office space.

“It’s an important profession,” said Turletes. “Our role is to fill the voids in the jobs in the state; nursing is high among that. So we’re trying to put people in jobs, and if we can expand the number of students we can handle, that would be a good thing.”

First steps of planning

Turletes said a couple of years ago an initial run at planning a Health Sciences Building was made. Because of that, 70 percent of the building components are known, but they are not yet releasing any details until they are approved.

They are 99 percent sure the new building will be located on Providence Drive across from the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, Turletes said. The land, west of Providence Alaska Medical Center, came from a land swap with the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.

Planning for the building will take about a year. First they will assemble participating deans and directors to make sure it is clear what should be in the space. These representatives will communicate with their health departments to insure student and faculty needs are met.

Once details are decided, a planning firm will be brought in to validate and correct the initial plan and then sketch requirements for a plan that can be used to design the blueprints. At that point UAA would ask the Board of Regents for additional funds to create the blueprints. Turletes said that equals about 10 percent of the construction costs. Generally, a year after receiving money for design, they would go back for construction money.

“Yes, we’re beginning the planning process,” Turletes said. “We hope to get design and construction going as quick as we can after the planning’s done.”