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UA Visitors Center finally finds a home

Josh Fields/Arizona Daily Wildcat
The Visitors Center has moved to a a location twice the size of its previous home. The Visitors Center will open to the public on Friday from 9 a.m.
By J. Ferguson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
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The Visitors Center has finally found a permanent home after being displaced by the construction of the Manuel T. Pacheco Integrated Learning Center several years ago.

The new home of the Visitors Center, 811 N. Euclid Ave., is twice the size of its former location with almost 4,800 square feet to greet newcomers to the UA, said Visitors Center Director Heather Lukach.

With ample space, the center will offer kiosks for the UA Press and the UofA Bookstore, as well as an area to buy tickets from UApresents, rotating UA exhibits and two wide-screen televisions running the UA cable channel, Lukach said.

The Arizona Board of Regents approved the new location in March, which allowed the Visitors Center to move out of a small office that was half the size of the new location, said Regent Fred Boice.

The center itself and its location are crucial in informing the community about what the UA is doing, Boice said.

Joel Valdez, senior vice president for business affairs, said the location where the center stands was the perfect fit for the UA because of its proximity to university attractions.

"It is right smack dab in the middle of main gate development," Valdez said.

The location will also help foster good correspondence with the public, which is necessary for continuing to attract high-caliber students, Valdez said.

"We are great at talking to each other (university to university) but we are not telling the community, Arizona or the nation what we are accomplishing here," Boice said.

In addition to approving the project, Boice said, the regents also had to approve the costs associated with the center's relocation.

The lease rate for the center will be a flat rate of $12,500 per month for the first five years with increases beginning in the sixth year. Each year the UA will see a 3 percent increase until the expiration of the 20-year lease term, according to the regent summary.

After the lease expires, the university will have the first right to acquire the property if it becomes available for purchase from the owner, JL Investments LLC, at a 25 percent discount of the market value at that time, Valdez said.

The remodeling costs associated with converting what was once a Mexican restaurant into the present-day Visitors Center was included in the $150,000 yearly lease, Valdez said.

Revenues from the 40 parking meters in the parking lot of the center are also expected to pay for a portion of the lease, Valdez said, as UA officials estimate that $50,000 could be raised from the meters alone.

Patrick Kass, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said the estimate seems accurate because the UA parking meters bring in an average of about $5 a day. If each of the 40 meters met that average for the 250 days a year, Kass said, it would total $50,000.

Aside from monetary issues, President Peter Likins said he is "deeply relieved" the Visitors Center finally has a permanent home. He said campus visitors need a point of entry to the university, and the Visitors Center will give them a place to start when they visit the UA for the first time.

"A lot of people try to wander around campus, trying to find a point of reference, just trying to get an idea of what this campus is like," Likins said.

The Visitors Center will open to the public Friday at 9 a.m.

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