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By Susan Carroll
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 6, 1998

Union project hits fast track

Backed by everything but funding, Memorial Student Union renovation plans hit the fast track Friday when the Arizona Board of Regents waived seven board policies to give the project its approval.

"This is an opportunity to try something different," Joel Valdez, senior vice president for business affairs, told the board of regents. "Tackling this particular project is like changing a tire going 90 miles an hour down the freeway."

The private-sector spin on the University of Arizona's Student Union project bypasses the board of regent's traditional process requiring two phases of building to complete the much-needed renovations.

Regent Judy Gignac said she "heartily, heartily endorsed" the project as a "marvel" before the board of regents unanimously approved it at a meeting at the Arizona International Campus.

"Shame on me," said Regent John Munger. "I've served on the board for six years - why aren't we doing this as standard procedure?"

With the policy waivers, the UA will be able to hire a joint architect-contractor team rather than accept separate bids from firms, cutting down on costs and shaving six months off the project, Valdez said.

The design/build team could be ready to lay groundwork in July 1999, the UA stated in its proposal to the board of regents - provided funding is secured.

Student Union renovation and expansion is projected to tally bills between $60 million and $70 million, but with the joint contract between the architects and contractors, the cost should not go above the $60 million mark, Valdez said.

Physical deterioration, fire code violations, building code deficiencies and asbestos removal requirements make up $14.2 million of the price tag.

But funding for the project remains uncertain after students last semester voted down a $40-per-semester student fee that would have raked in $2.4 million a year for five years. The project will have to be funded with bonds, revenue from the UA Associated Students Bookstore, food services and other undetermined sources.

"We have pledged that yes, students will be involved, and faculty and staff," Valdez said.

In other business, the board of regents granted the UA conceptual approval for Main Library improvements, which include a combination of renovation and new construction.

The project, which will cost about $10.4 million, will be funded by federal appropriations and academic revenue bonds.

The Main Library was built in the 1970s and now needs an additional 300,000 square feet of space, said Robert Smith, director of UA Facilities Design and Construction.

"The library is the true heart of the university," Gignac said. "What's happening here is we're bringing it up into the 21st century."

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