Northern Arizona University President John Haeger presented an update to the Flagstaff City Council on Monday on the joint NAU-city conference center that includes plans to increase the size of the facility.

Haeger said plans call for the conference center to expand to 41,000 square feet from the original 37,000 square feet, with most of the additional square footage being dedicated to the ballroom that will accommodate a banquet for 800 people.

Construction cost increases, including materials and labor, as well as the additional square footage, have raised the price of the conference center and adjacent parking garage to about $17 million from $14 million. However, Haeger explained that the university is reviewing options to cover the costs. These options include value engineering, design changes, additional bonds and reserve funds.

conference1_medAt the same time, the adjacent parking garage will be built to three stories instead of four to keep costs lower.The president said that value engineering allows the university to maximize resources while maintaining high quality. “We want to assure the council that we won’t sacrifice design,” Haeger said.

In addition to the conference center and parking garage, the complex will contain a 150-room hotel to be built by Missouri-based Drury Hotels. Preliminary work on the site, located near the intersection of Butler Avenue and Milton Road, could begin in August.
The city of Flagstaff has committed $2 million toward the project. Consultants have projected the conference center could generate an additional $7 million annually in economic development for the city.

NAU and the city also are exploring ways to steer conference-goers to downtown Flagstaff, perhaps through pedestrian paths or trolleys.