The recent resignation of University of New Mexico Regent Alex Romero leaves the Board of Regents Finance and Facilities Committee with only two members: Regent Chair Marron Lee and Regent Tom Clifford.
Both members attended this Tuesday’s meeting and discussed two large-scale proposed projects, each regarding on-campus athletic facilities.
Football locker renovation
The first proposal was a renovation of the UNM football lockers. Presenters in favor of the renovation explained that the current lockers were both outdated and damaged, and keeping them may reduce player recruitment, because many other programs have already upgraded their locker rooms.
Presenters also said the locker room is currently equipped with 120 lockers, but the football program maintains a 115-player capacity, meaning that a renovation would also include a better utilization of space.
The proposed cost of the project is $675,000. With approval, the completion date would aim to be Aug. 1 in order to be ready for new recruits.
Regent Clifford was opposed to the renovation and cited the hotly debated athletic debt as the cause of his disapproval.
“Why aren’t we looking at our operating deficit, which is a real concern? I’m not sure why this is coming forward right now. We have to revisit all our plans. The donors want to support specific things, but we have a program that’s underwater,” Clifford said.
In response to Clifford’s concerns, presenters said the project was under a strict timeline, and if it was not passed soon then it would not be completed by Aug. 1 and in time for the football season.
Clifford maintained his position.
Because there are only two voting members, there was no way that the proposal could pass, Lee said.
Johnson Center renovations
Next, the committee entertained a project that would renovate certain sections of the Johnson Center while also expanding the building into the southern parking lot.
The cost of the renovation and expansion was estimated to be $35,000,000. Construction would begin in June 2018, and its completion projection date would be in March of 2020.
A new panel of presenters said this project has been in development for two and a half years. It aims to accomplish a number of goals, including making the entrances and exits of the center more accessible, and also allowing students to have prolonged access to areas that may be restricted if classes are using them.
The southernmost basketball courts would be completely renovated, and the expansion would include a new running track.
Lee acknowledged that there is a need for the renovation and inquired whether those leading the project have thought about keeping the center open longer, especially as freshmen will soon be required to live on campus.
The presenters said plans to lengthen the hours of operation were not set but could possibly take place later.
Clifford wanted to know the degree of student input that has been put into the project.
The presenters said there were a number of steps in which students voted, via surveys on designs and which additions they would like to see at the center. A number of student suggestions, such as climbing walls, were unable to be incorporated due to a lack of funding.
“When push comes to shove, and you have ($)30 million to do an ($)80 million projected project, you need to focus on the necessities,” a presenter said. “We’ve done a really good job dealing with the hand we were dealt on this one.”
The two Regents approved the project at their committee, but Clifford said that he would need more input from students involved if he was to support the program moving forward.
Austin Tyra is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers the Board of Regents. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AustinATyra.