The new sports complex currently under construction at the University of Alaska Anchorage now has a name – the Alaska Airlines Center. UAA and Alaska Airlines announced the $6.3 million partnership on Thursday.
Though the new athletic facilities will bear the name of the airline, the money is dedicated to helping out with other aspects of UAA’s athletic department.
One-million dollars of the deal will go towards creating a new scholarship endowment for UAA student athletes.
UAA Athletic Director Steve Cobb says there are approximately 200 student athletes at UAA, over 75 percent of whom receive at least partial scholarship support. Once the endowment is fully funded, it will yield approximately $40,000 in new scholarship money annually. Alaskans will have the top priority.
“The way our averages are now, and most of our athletes are on partials, it would be seven additional athletes who would be able to give our average amount of aid to,” Cobb said.
Currently, the average amount of aid the athletic department awards is a little less than a half scholarship.
The remaining $5.3 million is slated to assist with travel costs for the 13 athletic programs at UAA.
According to UAA Vice Chancellor of University Advancement Megan Olson, those costs are as much as three times as much as schools in the Lower 48.
“The travel itself is such a big part of the athletics program budget, the partnership that Alaska Airlines is providing in their sponsorship helps to relieve that burden,” Olson said. “All of our athletes have to travel extraordinary distances in order to compete.”
The athletics department’s travel budget is approximately $1.6 million this year.
The new arena is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2014, and Cobb doesn’t just expect it to give a boost to the athletic department, but to the community as a whole.
“Very soon, everyone is gonna come to the Alaska Airlines Center for one reason or another, whether graduation, a lecture, a concert, a game, or some other event,” he said. “I think in probably two years, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anybody in the state who hasn’t visited that building.”
Cobb also said the new facilities will allow for some growth of the programs, which might even mean the addition of men’s and women’s soccer teams in the future.
“It’s a big decision here anytime you add, because of the tremendous cost of each program, but we also have an obligation to meet the needs of the state,” Cobb said. “So, that’s the first thing you look at, are there unmet needs of the state, and the fact is we are exporting talented, young student athletes that like to play the sport of soccer and they don’t have a chance to stay here.”
The new deal will officially start on July 1 of this year, and includes an option to renew it for an additional five years.