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Two high-profile building projects at Northern Arizona University are weeks away from their public debuts.

The Health and Learning Center, the biggest construction project in NAU history, is essentially down to cosmetic work, and the Skydome is on pace for the anticipated Arizona Cardinals summer training camp.

While heavy equipment and temporary chain-link fences still dot the Flagstaff campus, the start of the fall semester will mark the completion of several major remodels and new builds.

HEALTH AND LEARNING CENTER (HLC)

Originally budgeted at about $130 million, then pared down to about $106 million or less, the HLC is still the most complex and expensive venture to ever come up at NAU.

The 270,000 square-foot facility, built where Lumberjack Stadium and the old recreation center once stood, is funded through student-approved fees. Ground broke in September 2009.

The HLC is expected to be ready to go by the first day of classes on Aug. 29. The project is about six weeks ahead of schedule, which campus facilities chief Jane Kuhn attributed to good management by Mortenson Construction.

The southern wing is dedicated to physical and mental health services. Students will have access to urgent care, counseling, X-rays, a lab and a pharmacy, which returns after a two-year absence from the old Fronske Health Center.

To the northerly aspect is space for the NCAA tennis, soccer and track and field programs and an indoor connection to the new Lumberjack Stadium. The seating has been upgraded from bleachers to 1,000 individual bucket seats, and there's a new indoor press box and freshly laid royal blue track

The recreation center is in the central portion of the building and features a 42-foot, richly textured climbing wall with several belay stations; a gymnasium painted for basketball, soccer, floor hockey and volleyball; a quarter-mile running track ringing the gym and climbing structure; rooms for yoga and aerobics; a weight room; an outdoor multi-use courtyard; the outdoors recreation program and plenty of lockers and cubbies. The old recreation center is attached to the new building, and includes six remodeled racquetball courts and an additional gym.

On the third and fourth floors sit 12 classrooms each. The third floor also has a "sustainable cafe," which won't include a grill (so no fried foods or burgers) and will serve locally produced foods when possible.

Also on the topic of sustainability, the building features rooftop solar panels (which will heat the building's water) and solar tube lighting.

The building also houses disability resources and employee assistance and wellness services.

SKYDOME

The Skydome is on a relatively tight turnaround. Work started on Dec. 21, right after winter commencement ceremonies, and the Dome should be fully ready just in time for the Jacks' first home game on Sept. 10. The Cardinals and Lumberjack football teams will be able to train inside the arena starting in August.

Outside work will be minimal, but the upgrades inside are plentiful. The project is budgeted at about $25.6 million in federal stimulus money, and is on schedule and within budget, Kuhn said.

Infrastructure upgrades that comply with fire and disability-access codes include new sprinklers, remodeled bathrooms and more elevators. There's also the spectator experience: The mostly bench seating has been replaced with 10,000 individual, 21-inch-wide seats with backs. Patrons will also be able to watch shows or games in new suites.

Spectators in the lower-level seats will have access to much larger bathrooms, as will people who use the concourse-level facilities. The eastern entrance directs event attendees through a wide tunnel that opens up to a panoramic view of the field -- which, as workers continue their task, is currently topped with construction equipment, hurdles and other odds and ends from track and field, and of course, the towering Louie statue off to the side.

For athletes and sports staff, the visitor locker rooms are finished, the home lockers sit ready for installation and the mirrors that will line the weight room walls are standing in a hallway waiting to be hung. Other training rooms, equipment rooms and coach offices are also new and bright.

The Dome opens to the public on Sept. 9, one day before the Jacks take on Fort Lewis College.

Hillary Davis can be reached at hdavis@azdailysun.com or 556-2261.

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