ABOR approves capital projects, praises university budgeting

Arizona Board of Regents logo

The Arizona Board of Regents unanimously approved capital development plans for Northern Arizona University during a regularly scheduled meeting last week at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Jennus Burton, NAU vice president for Finance and Administration, presented plans for three projects that would renovate and construct new structures at an estimated cost of $125.4 million. Burton said the projects are part of the university’s master plan for growth and would phase-out older structures.

“We are replacing aging buildings with more efficient space,” Burton said. “We will build to LEED standards and expect to match or lower the operating cost of the existing buildings.”

NAU is expected to boost enrollment by 30 percent over the next decade as part of the regents’ plan to increase the number of state residents with bachelor’s degrees.

A 120,000-square-foot science and health facility, which would add much-needed laboratory space, is estimated to cost $71.9 million in SPEED funds.

The plan includes a $28.5 million renovation of the Fieldhouse, which will use a mix of public and private funds to transform it into a multi-purpose space that would hold basketball games, student activities and serve as an event venue for the community. The building, originally constructed in 1965, would get upgrades to the infrastructure, acoustics, flooring and lighting. The modified structure will accommodate up to 3,400 attendees for sporting events and up to 3,800 for lectures and performances.

NAU will add a new parking structure to campus with $25 million in public/private funds where Fronske Health Center currently stands on San Francisco Street. Fronske operations will relocate to the Health and Learning Center upon its completion next fall.

A third-party project will add two residence halls to south campus that together will accommodate more than 1,000 students by the fall of 2012.

The board also approved a three-year contract extension for NAU head football coach Jerome Souers.

NAU President John Haeger said Souers is “much more than a football coach” at the university and cited continually improving reports from the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rates and student-athlete success as part of the reason for the contract extension. He also noted that Souers has had eight winning seasons in his 13 years at NAU.

Regent Fred DuVal reported that the Academic Affairs Committee is developing a shared course numbering system in response to Senate Bill 1186. The state bill requires a common numbering system for core courses to ease the transfer of credits between Arizona’s community colleges and universities.

Board chair Anne Mariucci said the Audit Committee observed much progress over last year in the universities’ use of internal controls and efforts to cope with reductions in state support.

“The universities have done an outstanding job at finding other revenue sources,” Mariucci said.

The next regents meeting will be held Feb. 17 and 18 at Arizona State University in Tempe.