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Regents approve $109M sports arena at University of Alaska Anchorage; total funding uncertain

Posted: June 4, 2011 - 8:19pm

ANCHORAGE — The University of Alaska Anchorage board regents has approved plans to build a $109 million sports arena on campus and university officials hope to break ground on the project this summer.

There’s a possibility Gov. Sean Parnell will veto a bill that provides about a third of the project’s cost, the Anchorage Daily News reported. But a university spokesman says plans are moving forward.

“We’re waiting to see what the governor does, but no matter what he does, we’re going to begin the design process,” said Bill Spindle, UAA’s vice chancellor for administrative services. “Our goal is to have this built by the summer of 2014.”

The regents voted 9-1 Friday to build the arena east of Providence Alaska Medical Center, the Anchorage paper said.

The arena is expected to have a main gym that will seat about 5,600 and be large enough to be divided into three courts. It also will house an auxiliary gym that can be divided into two courts for intramurals and events like dances.

The arena will replace the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, which was opened in 1978, has one gym floor and seats about 1,000. It was designed as a recreation center for a community college.

“We’re the only school I know of that only has access to one gym floor,” said UAA athletic director Steve Cobb. “When compared to our sister institutions, we’re just woefully behind.”

Plans to build a new arena go back to at least 2007, when former Gov. Sarah Palin vetoed an allocation of $1 million for planning an arena.

Fran Ulmer soon became UAA’s chancellor and was among those who ramped up local support. Her efforts landed her in the Seawolf Hall of Fame last year.

In 2008, a Title IX lawsuit alleged inequitable facilities for the women’s teams.

“At that point, people wanted to hear our story more often, because it wasn’t just an athletic director whining. It was: Here’s just another example of the problems we’re going have,” Cobb said.

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