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Regents wrap up busy two-day meeting

The University of Alaska Board of Regents on Feb. 18 authorized additional planning work, including a traffic flow analysis, needed to move forward on the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolf Sports Arena—a significant step in the long-awaited project.

Conducting additional studies will provide board members with necessary information as they move forward in reviewing the project, which voters overwhelming endorsed with $60 million in a November 2010 General Obligation Bond. Board members have questions mostly related to traffic and parking, and gathering the information needed to analyze those issues is important before the next step in the project can occur.

The board is considering two design options for the arena; one, a 3,600-seat arena the board approved in 2009 (at an estimated $80 million); and a larger, 5,600-seat facility (currently estimated at $110 million). Questions about traffic, parking, and ongoing operating and maintenance costs associated with the two design options will be answered by the board’s action today. Once the design and size issettled, better cost estimates will be known. In addition to the $60 million from the GO bond, the board also has $15 million from prior capital appropriations for the UAA arena.

The board supports the overall project and expects to sign off on a final plan, perhaps as early as this spring.

Regents also gave formal project approval for a Career and Technical Education Center at Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna, not to exceed $14.5 million. The center, also part of the GO bond, would build a 15,000-square-foot building that would house laboratories, a multi-function lab/shop with a high-bay door, classrooms, offices and a student commons. The project will free up an additional 5,000 square feet of space for other growing programs on campus, including nursing, para-medicine and art.

In other business, the board approved an amendment to the current UA non-discrimination policy to include “sexual orientation,” following the trend of some 400 public colleges and universities across the nation.  “We’re not breaking trail here,” said UA President Pat Gamble. “The credit for this goes to the students, who were organized, professional, persistent, and presented solid data. It was time.”

The meeting was packed with other items. The board accepted the UA Academic Master Plan, a faculty driven document that speaks broadly to academic goals and objectives. Faculty members from across the UA System presented the plan to the board as a group, underscoring one of the five goals listed in the plan: “increase consultation, collaboration and coordination across UA.”

In other business, the board:

• Approved the release of  $1 million each (previously received capital funding) to UAA and UAF to go forward with comprehensive planning and design for two new engineering buildings on each campus, per an initiative to double the number of engineering graduates and relieve crowding;

• Approved a new Associate in Applied Science degree in outdoor leadership at Prince William Sound Community College and a Bachelor of Arts degree in film at UAF;

• Approved amendments to the FY 11 and FY 12 operating budget requests to account for funding for the United Academics-Adjuncts’ union compensation increases of 1.5 percent; and federal receipt authority to cover increased Pell grant activity.

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