Friday Letter 2016-10-21:
Announcing Our Plans for an Arena at UI
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For the two years of my presidency, my highest fundraising priority has been building a new arena for basketball and volleyball at the University of Idaho. Today I’m formally announcing the public phase of our campaign to build an arena in Moscow. This project is an investment in our student-athletes, a great student experience and an exciting campus environment for alumni, fans and the entire community. It is an investment in excellence.
Located on the field north of the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center, the arena will be an outstanding place to build on our tradition of athletic success. Including a new practice court, office and conference space, the facility will alleviate the space constraints we face with basketball’s conflict with football in fall and with the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in spring. This adaptable, modern facility will help our basketball and volleyball programs compete for Big Sky Conference championships year in and year out. As Athletic Director Rob Spear puts it, “This will be one of the most impactful projects in the history of our athletic department. A new facility can transform and elevate our court sports to new heights.”
The impact on recruiting will be tangible, too. The Cowan Spectrum has done a wonderful job for many years, but it’s time to build a facility that helps us consistently recruit outstanding student-athletes and maintain the Division I excellence we have every right to expect as Vandals. Our women’s basketball team has been to the NCAA tournament three of the past four seasons. Our men’s team just had their best season in 20 years. Let’s use that as a launching pad for the next generation of successful Vandal athletes.
A new arena also enhances the student experience at UI. Students will be excited about heading to a game — or a concert, conference or lecture — in a space that is designed for those experiences. I’m thrilled that our student government at ASUI backs this plan. The facilities fee they originated and passed is the seed funding that will allow this idea to grow. We’ll see opportunities for faculty and hands-on student involvement in all phases of this project — from our art and architecture Design Lab, to our natural resources programs, to civil engineering. Upon completion, students in movement sciences, journalism, marketing and more will find the facility a practical place to exercise their emerging talents and skills.
This is a building that represents Idaho, and, accordingly, we’ve been working with Idaho’s forest products industry. Wood is a central design element in the building’s 4,700-seat, 70,000-square-foot design. As Idaho’s land-grant research leader, we plan to demonstrate what it means to build a cutting-edge facility with our state’s abundant renewable resource.
In total, we have over half of the project cost committed. Student support has been pivotal. I want to thank the Associated Students of the University of Idaho (ASUI) for recognizing the need for this project and stepping up with fee support that can be used to bond up to $5 million of the arena cost. We have other commitments from generous friends of the university. Our next steps are to ask for the support of all our alumni and friends. While completing our fundraising, we plan to ask the State Board of Education for approval to plan and bid the construction in February 2017. I know that ASUI President Cruz Botello and others share my hope that entering freshmen in fall 2017 will cheer on the Vandals in the arena during their senior year.
This is a game-changing project for our campus, for our athletics program and for Idaho. Together, let’s build something special at the University of Idaho.