Juneau has a new building for troops and university hoops.
The University of Alaska Southeast and the Alaska Army National Guard hosted a grand opening Saturday of the Charles Gamble Jr.-Donald Sperl Joint Use Facility. Soldiers in fatigues and students mingled and toured the $15.3 million recreation and readiness center in Auke Bay.
The joint facility is a concept that will be cheaper than each party having separate facilities, said UAS Chancellor John Pugh.
"I think it's a way of the future for government," he said. "We need to do more of that - sharing facilities. There's ways of sharing facilities. And this I think, I hope, will be a model for other kinds of joint facility sharing throughout the state."
The ribbon-cutting drew local and state leaders, including Maj. Gen. Craig Campbell, the adjutant general for the State of Alaska.
"It's the first in the country, that I know of, where you've got a joint facility between a university and a National Guard unit," Campbell said. "I think you'll see this as a model for a national example, because it's so well done. The university and the National Guard have worked so well together to bring this together."
Students are excited about the new facility, but some have some worries about how joint-use will actually work, said William Andrews, student body vice president.
"I think there is a little bit of a concern from students that they're going to be pursued for recruitment," he said. "The National Guard is just doing what they do - they recruit. They need to recruit people. As long as students respond in a tactful way, I don't think there will be that much tension here."
Andrews said he would have liked to see the university with its own recreation facility, but said the joint-use facility is beneficial for students.
Pugh said the National Guard and the university are working well together and have already made scheduling compromises to assist each another.
"There will be some times when there will be a little bit of a conflict, in we're going to have to have times when students can't use parts of the facility, but that's rare," he said. "We have a joint committee that works on all the rules and working out any kind of bugs we have and so on."
Campbell said he doesn't expect any major scheduling conflicts.
"It's very complementary, that we'll be using it when they don't need it and they'll be using it when we don't need it," he said.
"There is space that is just the Guard's space, and then there is space that is just the university's space," said Keith Gerkin, UAS director of facility services. "And then there's about half the building that is joint-use, that we both use."
The facility has a number of amenities that will be beneficial to students and soldiers alike, Gerkin said. The building has a gymnasium, climbing wall, weight room, exercise room, indoor track and two extra classrooms.
"We've already seen a big upswing in students coming to this facility versus the Student Activity Center, which didn't have near the scope that this one does," Pugh said. "The students are going to have the opportunity after they study to come down at night and work some of that tension off."
Pugh said there will be a lot of intramural sports going on, which he believes will help the university retain students.
"It was really necessary to build a core facility to ensure that when we get students here they have the kinds of classroom buildings, labs, recreation facility that are equal to or better than other universities so we can attract the students and keep them," he said.
"This is the most extraordinary thing to happen to UAS in a long, long time," said Cachet Garrett, student body president. "It's another building, another facility, and it shows that the university is growing and that's the most important thing."
Eric Morrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.