Financial uncertainty puts SPEED projects on hold

The university’s five approved SPEED projects remain on hold pending resolution of the FY10 state budget and the future of available Lottery revenue.

“We are in the middle of some design work on a couple of projects, and that will continue, otherwise our projects are on hold,” said Jane Kuhn, NAU interim chief facilities officer.

Northern Arizona University has had five projects approved by the Arizona Board of Regents and favorably reviewed by the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Capital Review. They include remodeling and upgrading the Liberal Arts building, Hotel and Restaurant Management and the North Union. Also included are improving the north campus infrastructure and upgrading fire- and life-safety issues in the Skydome.

Design work for HRM, Liberal Arts and the north campus infrastructure will be completed.

Approved by the Legislature in 2008, the Stimulus Plan for Economic and Educational Development, or SPEED, was intended to jump-start Arizona’s sagging economy by boosting the construction industry.

The SPEED legislation authorized $1 billion in financing authority for capital projects at the three state universities. The universities were to pay 20 cents on the dollar while Arizona Lottery revenues made up the difference.

However, the economic downturn and budget uncertainties have caused delays to the projects. Kuhn explained that funding from the Lottery could be restricted by proposals in both the House and Senate.

“We understand there are significant budget challenges,” incoming ABOR President Ernest Calderón told The Arizona Republic. “We’re keeping (construction projects) on the back burner with the hope there will be some sort of breakthrough that will allow us to move ahead.”

NAU’s Health and Wellness Center near Lumberjack Stadium, which is funded by student fees and is not a SPEED project, will proceed in September pending approval from ABOR and a favorable review from the JCCR.

Phase 1 of the wellness project, the artificial-turf fields on south campus, will be open in the summer.