With around four months left until it’s slated to open, the University of Alaska Anchorage is tweaking the design of its new sports complex.
The university has decided to add a new restaurant in an effort to draw in the surrounding community.
Though much of the finishing work remains, the interior of the Alaska Airlines Center is beginning to take shape.
From the newly-installed floor of the performance gym, which is lit largely by natural light streaming in through a number of massive windows, you get a good idea of just how central it is to the building’s design. Two levels of stadium seating – capable of holding about 5,000 spectators – surround the floor.
Coaching offices overlook the gym. And, peering up to the top floor you can see five hospitality suites with a prime view of the court. According to Tlisa Northcutt, the director of development for Seawolf athletics, those suites aren’t the only thing occupying the arena’s upper-most level.
“There’s also a restaurant going in that will be like 360 days a year; it’s not just for campus, it’s really meant to be kind of an addition for the community in this area,” she said. “It’ll be known as Varsity Sports Grill.”
Northcutt says the grill will be open for lunch and dinner daily, and should seat approximately 100 people at its indoor tables.
“There’s also a lovely patio; it’s amazing; it has a great view,” Northcutt said. “It will actually be able to expand the seating for most of the year. They’re looking at putting propane heaters and that sort of thing out there too.”
The patio – which faces the Chugach Mountains to the east – should fit around 80 people.
The restaurant is a late addition to the arena’s original design, and was approved by the University of Alaska Board of Regents in April.
Bill Spindle is the vice chancellor for administrative services at UAA.
“It’s not the classy brew pub where they’re brewing their own beer, but it has a lot of the characteristics of a brew pub,” Spindle said. “It’ll be something like if you went to the Glacier Brewhouse, it’ll be something similar to that.”
“It’s a place where you can have a really good meal and a drink if you want.”
Though the restaurant will have some food options for students, its focus is to bring in others who live and work in the surrounding area.
Beer and wine will be for sale at the restaurant, which, according to Spindle, marks a shift in UAA’s alcohol policy.
“The University has not allowed alcohol on campus except for specific restricted events, so we have redone our policy and got approval from the chancellor for the arena only, to have beer and wine at particular events,” Spindle said.
In addition to allowing the sale of beer and wine at the Varsity Sports Grill, the new policy will also enable alcohol sales at athletic events, though details about that process are still in development.
UAA Athletic Director Keith Hackett hopes the restaurant will help make the new sports center into a community destination.
“When people come to sporting events, 75 percent of them go out to dinner before or after an event, so, what our hope is, is that those people that are going out to dinner choose to come to the Varsity Sports Grill,” Hackett said.
The restaurant will be operated by NANA Management Services.
Spindle says the Alaska Airlines Center is still on track to open Sept. 5.