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Northern Arizona’s High Performance Center has taken a slightly new direction.

Northern Arizona Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Mike Marlow, said last week that the project is planned to be a 70,000-square-foot facility that will house all of the school’s student-athletes in some capacity. The current estimated cost is $46 million and is liable to change as the project unfolds.

“The focus is on all 358 of our student-athletes, along with court sports with practice gymnasiums and access to other facilities,” Marlow said. “It won’t be a spectator venue, it will be for training and academics.”

The current goal is to break ground and begin construction in March 2020, and have the facility completed no later than December 2021, Marlow said, adding that he feels the timeline is realistic for completion of the project.

Marlow said much of the funds raised so far have come via donors, including a $1 million donation and another that was about $500,000. The athletics fee, which cannot be raised or lowered from its $150 per student, per semester cost until 2026, will be used to help fund the project along with the other contributions.

“We have a solid fundraising model in place," Marlow said. "We went into the ABOR meeting feeling very fortunate that we had exceeded our $4 million fundraising goal by the meeting. We have a lot more money that will be raised over the course of the project.”

The project was proposed to be a 2,500-seat venue for basketball, and potentially volleyball, along with the current plans.

A new competition arena is still in the works, according to Marlow, but that has been pushed back and is currently considered phase two of the school’s plan that he hopes to have done in the future.

“That was one of the iterations before we had final budgets done,” Marlow said. “This is a performance-center-based, and focused on the training, conditioning, academics and collaboration with campus.”

Marlow has alluded to the need for a venue that better houses volleyball and basketball as a way to boost those programs. An upgrade of Rolle Activity Center could also benefit each.

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“We certainly recognize men’s basketball and other programs that need more tools in their tool belt, if you will," Marlow said in February.

Marlow said the change in plans was because of a concern that there was not enough time to do each part at once. A lack of funding and cost concerns also could have been factors.

Phase one is the completion of the new facility, which is tentatively planned to be located just south of the new turf football practice field located east of the Walkup Skydome in an “undeveloped location,” according to Arizona Board of Regents documents. Preliminary concept art shows the building sitting adjacent to the field, with the entrance angling the Skydome parking lot.

The facility is expected to feature a practice gym for basketball and volleyball, sports medicine facilities, nutrition stations, academic support for athletics, and a public welcome area featuring the NAU Athletics Hall of Fame in some capacity.

Northern Arizona stated its justification for the project to ABOR as a way to put the athletics facilities at or above the level of the rest of the Big Sky Conference.

DLR and Core are contracting with Northern Arizona University on construction and design of the project.

INTEGRATING CAMPUS

Marlow said a goal for the project has always been to find a way to integrate programs from around the school into the facility.

Although he said he couldn't really go into specifics or speak for the programs, he hopes that programs such as physical therapy, athletic training, exercise science and nutrition benefit from the facility.

“It will allow NAU to not only expand knowledge on campus," Marlow said, "but it will contribute to a greater body of knowledge nationally in terms of injury prevention, and physical and emotional well-being.”

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Lance Hartzler can be reached at 556-2251 or at lhartzler@azdailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @lance_hartz.

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