Expect some disruption with construction

dining expansion
dining expansion
The dining expansion to the Student Union opened in August. Several more construction projects are planned over the next few years as part of the Stimulus Plan for Economic and Educational Development. Photo by Jerry Foreman

NAU is about to embark on several building renewal and new construction projects, and the campus will experience some disruption and commotion—especially when buildings and some parking lots close.

Yet the outcome promises to be well worth the inconvenience.

The Arizona Legislature’s statewide Stimulus Plan for Economic and Educational Development, funded by lottery revenues, will grant NAU the authority to build $170 million worth of construction projects for 20 cents on the dollar.

The SPEED initiative will allow NAU to move forward on several campus projects, the most significant being renovation of the Walkup Skydome and Liberal Arts building; the addition of classroom and lab space in the former Inn at NAU; the overhaul of Ardrey Auditorium; and the construction of a building for the College of Health and Human Services.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for the university to address much-needed and previously unfunded deferred maintenance and to build new academic facilities at a significant cost savings,” said NAU President John Haeger. “The SPEED initiative brings the added benefit of shoring up Arizona’s construction industry to help stimulate the state’s sagging economy.”

Haeger unveiled some of the plan’s details during a campus—wide forum Thursday in the High Country Conference Center.

However, he pointed out that the construction will impact campus and the community. “I’m aware of the strain construction will have on campus,” Haeger said. “But when it’s over we will be a much stronger, more vibrant institution.”

Work on the Skydome, which addresses safety and access issues, will necessitate closing the Dome. The work is scheduled to begin the first week of April with the Dome reopening in July.

The timing of the closure will allow university and high school athletic events to proceed as normal, but it will mean finding alternate locations for the NAU and high school commencements as well as other events.

Ardrey Auditorium will close in May and is scheduled to reopen December 2009. Several NAU and community events, including performances by the Flagstaff Symphony, temporarily will need to relocate to other venues.

Renovation on the first and second floors of the Liberal Arts building will likely begin in January, which may call for closing the building because of asbestos abatement, construction noise, and power and water outages. It is expected that the building will reopen for fall 2009 classes.

Another project, although unrelated to the SPEED initiative, will be the demolition and rebuilding of Lumberjack Stadium, scheduled to begin in July. The track will be out of commission for the public from July through August, but the field will be available for the Lumberjack soccer team. A new Lumberjack stadium will be built in the current location.

The largest of all projects will be the SPEED-financed, 120,000-square-foot health professions building, which will address the state’s shortage of health-care professionals by providing new and expanded programming for students in health-related disciplines. The facility will be located south of Wall Aquatic Center and is scheduled to be completed in 2011.

At the same time, a student-financed expansion of the recreation center will add 42,600 square feet, replacing the university’s 40-year-old health center with a Recreation, Health and Wellness Center, providing physical health, mental health, rehabilitation and recreational services. It also will include SPEED-financed additions for two floors of classrooms.

“Between the Lumberjack Stadium project and the building of a new health and wellness center and health professions building, the entire area from Lumberjack Stadium west to the field south of Wall Aquatic Center will be a busy construction zone,” Haeger said.

The popular field will be closed, but the university has taken steps to improve fields for recreation and intramurals.

A table showing the various active SPEED projects and the projected start and tentative completion dates can be found here. The dates and estimated costs are tentative and cannot be finalized until all the design and planning work is completed.

Campus parking also will be affected, and the university is in the process of developing options for alternative on-campus, and possibly off-campus, parking with transit service for faculty and staff.

Other active projects include the ongoing addition to the School of Communication for Distance Learning; a new roof for the North Union as well as repairs to the wiring and sprinkler systems; and utility and infrastructure upkeep.

“No doubt these major projects will be an inconvenience, but the end result will be well worth the temporary disruption,” Haeger said. “This is a rare opportunity for Northern Arizona University to make tremendous improvements to much-used buildings and to construct new buildings that will meet the needs of our students.”