Construction crews began razing Lumberjack Stadium on Tuesday as part of a project that will create about 2,500 jobs and generate more than $7.3 million in city and state tax revenue.
Northern Arizona University’s Health and Learning Center, funded in large part through student-approved fees, will add more than $51 million in labor wages to the state’s economy during the 21 months of construction. The 270,000-square-foot facility is expected to open in August 2011. A new and improved Lumberjack Stadium also will be rebuilt as part of the project.
The university is planning a groundbreaking ceremony for the project on Oct. 22, when alumni return to campus for Homecoming activities that week.
“Construction is one of those areas that can help boost a sagging economy,” said NAU President John Haeger, who is an expert on economic change in America. “I’ve said before that you can’t just cut your way out of a recession. By investing in jobs that will bring positive change to campus, we are helping our students while also benefitting our local and Arizona workforce.”
The Health and Learning Center will replace the 40-year-old Fronske Health Center, renovate and expand the 20-year-old Recreation Center and replace the 49-year-old stadium. It will include two floors of much-needed classrooms and an integrated service center providing physical health, mental health, recreation, intercollegiate athletic facilities, a café and social gathering space.
The $106 million project also encompasses the recently opened recreation fields, volleyball courts and facilities on south campus. As with the fields project, the Health and Learning Center will be built to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards of the U.S. Green Building Council.
“The increase in construction-related jobs is particularly welcome in this economy since the construction sector typically pays among the highest average wages when compared with jobs in other industries,” said Ron Gunderson, NAU professor of economics.
“The project will not only increase jobs in the private sector, but the expenditures for goods and materials in the local area also generate increased sales tax revenues for the city of Flagstaff. Sales tax receipts in most of the local sectors have been significantly reduced over the past year due to the economic slowdown, so the addition of an expected $1.4 million in new city sales tax revenues will be a welcome addition at this time,” Gunderson said.
The university has worked closely with the selected contractor, Mortenson Construction, to encourage participation of area subcontractors, according to Jane Kuhn, associate vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs.
“Mortenson ran a series of ads in the Arizona Daily Sun during the month of May and sponsored a meeting, with assistance from the Northern Arizona Builders Association, inviting local subcontractors to participate in the project,” Kuhn said. “They also reached out to the local subcontractor community through a calling campaign that began in early May. While the contractor is working diligently to solicit local participation, state procurement law requires acceptance of qualified low bids.”
Mortenson already has received 43 bids from local subcontractors but has not yet completed its hiring process.
Five other projects slated on campus, which will be funded differently, also will provide an economic stimulus for the city and state.
The projects are part of the legislative Stimulus Plan for Economic and Educational Development, or SPEED, which would be funded primarily through future Arizona Lottery revenue deposits.
Budget challenges have delayed the projects, which have been approved by the Arizona Board of Regents and received favorable review by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Capital Review. They include critical upgrades of the Liberal Arts building, the former Inn at NAU and the North Union as well as improvements to the north campus plant and utility delivery. The Skydome project will address issues related to access for people with disabilities and fire- and life-safety concerns.
It is estimated that the SPEED projects will create 1,500 jobs with a labor income of $31.3 million. The combined city and state tax revenue is estimated at $4.6 million.
View the live demolition of Lumberjack Stadium here. Demolition photos below taken by Steven Toya of Marketing Services.