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Goodbye Flandrau Science Center

Illustration by Arnie Bermudez
By Jason Poreda
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday September 8, 2003

The UA is a beautiful place full of eye-popping features that make our campus special, from the fountain in front of Old Main to the new Student Union Memorial Center. The diverse plant life and styles of architecture make it hard not to appreciate it. Everything has its own unique qualities that make it stand out though in the case of the Harvill building those are confusion and disgust. That is especially true following the construction of many new buildings that added to the landscape of our campus. It's sad to ponder the fact we will be forced to say goodbye to one of these treasures in a few short years.

That familiar white dome on North Cherry Avenue that everyone notices when they come to the UA will be gone. We are losing one of the most unique buildings on campus, the Fladrau Science Center, because of its drain on the UA's budget and its prime location on the Mall.

The Flandrau Science Center is being relocated downtown as a part of the Rio Nuevo project. It will become the center of the project with an incredible new $72 million facility, which really is quite impressive. You can see the plans for it yourself on the Flandrau Web site. You'll be awed by the magnificent structure, complete with an IMAX theater, planetarium and many other nifty features.

At first, this seems like a reasonable and even good thing for the science center a new state-of-the-art facility set to thrive in the downtown of Tucson in what President Likins called an effort to bring the community and the university together. So everything is all good, right? Wrong.

Jason Poreda
contributing writer

The first problem with this new UA science center is the location in the so-called downtown of Tucson. Sure, it's the only place with buildings taller then four stories (another reason why I find it odd to move a telescope there) but it's not exactly the bustling center of activity it was 50 -odd years ago, back when everyone got all dolled up in Sunday's best to go shopping and gossip with the rest of the townsfolk. At the time, it was the place to be. Now Tucson is a city of strip malls and shopping centers and you only go downtown if you're going to the courthouse or Garcia's.

Rio Nuevo is supposed to rejuvenate this area and make it what it once was: a place to bring the family and have a good time. Flandrau is not going to do the job, nor is any part of Rio Nuevo for that matter. Parking concerns, questions of safety and just being so out of the way will make community members and students in particular find other things to do and other places to go.

Today's downtown is the UA. If the goal is really to reach out to the community as well as provide for the students, the UA should be bringing the community here, to this beautiful campus and all the new buildings we just spent so much time and money on. As a student employee of Flandrau pointed out, "It's hard to find something that is family-oriented like this on campus."

Curious to know if I was alone in wanting to keep Flandrau on campus, I talked with a few students about the upheaval of the white dome. Most students I talked with were surprised and sad to know that it was moving. When asked if they would venture through the city to find the new science center when it was built, they all responded with a "No, I don't think so."

Losing Flandrau is terrible thing, but last Wednesday at a town hall to discuss the planned move, the Wildcat learned that the loss might not stop there. The Arizona State Museum and Arizona Historical Society may join it in moving into the same building in Rio Nuevo. If this trend continues, Rio Nuevo could become a satellite campus and change its name to UA Downtown.

Other then saving money on the construction of the gorgeous new science center, there is little benefit to the UA for moving Flandrau, the Arizona State Museum or the Arizona Historical Society. We should be celebrating the campus and all its rich heritage and traditions, not picking it apart and eliminating some of its best assets.

Jason Poreda is a political science and communication senior. He can be reached at

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