Trustees approve $54 million for UofA projects

By Isabel Dobrin

The Razorback Reporter

Students will help pay for $41 million in capital projects approved by the Board of Trustees through facility fees charged per credit hour.

The board approved $54.7 million in construction and planning projects around campus during its November meeting. The $12 per-credit-hour fee and campus reserve funds will help cover about 75 percent of project costs.

“I know of very few schools across the country that have been able to do what we’re doing through a recession, with the students contributing to not only their generation but the next 50 years that follow that,” said Mike Johnson, the associate vice chancellor for Facilities Management.

Without fees and reserve funds, the university has few options for financing construction.

“We get very little funding from the state, practically none for capital facilities,” Chancellor Daniel Ferritor said. “They talk about it, and they say ‘this is what we ought to give you,’ but in fact, that money isn’t coming.”

Thus, the university relies on students who pay the fee, which has increased over the years from $2 to today’s $12– for updating and maintaining the campus, Ferritor said.

“We understand the importance, our students understand the importance and you have to pay for it,” Ferritor said, “and they do, our students do.”

The most expensive of the approved projects, the creation of new University Recreation playing fields, is estimated to cost $20 million.

The project will include three separate locations with fields for intramural and club sports, according to planning documents. The first location, with more than 72 acres of land at Cato Springs and Razorback Road, will include six football and soccer fields, four softball fields, four volleyball courts and three basketball courts. An additional six football and soccer fields may be built. The complex will include lighting, restrooms and parking.

More than 3,000 students use the current nine-acre intramural fields for more than 30 sports offered, according to the UREC website.

The conditions of the fields are decent, but often times sports are competing for already booked space, senior Salina Owens said. Owens plays club and intramural soccer.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to share,” Owens said. “More fields wouldn’t be only beneficial to us, I know every other club sport would appreciate the extra room as well.”

The other locations – 9 acres south of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on Indian Trail and 25 acres on Mount Comfort Road–will include three club sports fields, up to 12 tennis courts and parking.

Construction on the fields is scheduled to begin next year and is expected to be completed in 2019, according to planning documents.

Students will also help pay for the Library Storage Building, an estimated $11.4 million project which will be in the Art + Design District on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, between Government and Hill Avenues. The building will house more than 2 million items, including all items in the existing Library Storage Annex, as well as some items in Mullins Library, according to planning documents.

The new building will create additional space in Mullins Library for group study, Ferritor said.  Materials in the storage building can be requested online and then delivered to Mullins.

Classrooms and the exterior of Kimpel Hall will be renovated with an estimated $9.6 million from facility fees and campus reserves, according to planning documents. A student media center, estimated to cost $2 million, will also be added and supported by private gifts and the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

The media center, which will be anywhere from 3,500 to 7,000 square feet, depending on available money, will be on the Mcllroy Avenue side of Kimpel.

The board also approved a 20,000 square foot addition to Pat Walker Health Center. The addition, which will be added to the north of the center, will provide an acute care medical clinic, a space for counseling and psychological services, classrooms, consultation rooms and office space.
The estimated $11.7 million cost of the project will be funded by charges to health insurance companies for medical visits, according to planning documents.