MARQUETTE - The expansion and renovation of West Science and the construction of an Ice/Events Center top the list of capital projects under consideration for funding in Northern Michigan University's 1997-98 budget proposal.

More than $1.4 million in debt service is required for Northern's comprehensive building program - $831,000 would come from the 1997-98 general fund.

The state has pledged $35.2 million in support for West Science/Seaborg Center improvements, provided NMU can come up with a match of $11.7 million. NMU President William E. Vandament said more than $1 million already has been set aside. There are plans to raise at least an additional $4 million.

"Because the university must have the match before it can proceed with the project, we plan to borrow now while interest rates are low," Vandament said. "The borrowed funds not needed for West Science would be used for other projects for which state support is not feasible."

The budget proposal includes $284,000 that could cover the debt service on the Ice/Events Center. Vandament explained how that amount could be used to help finance an estimated $9 million project.

"If we raise an additional $1 million on top of a recent CCI Legacy Grant and the generous $1 million pledge of an anonymous donor, we would lower the bonding level to $6.85 million," he said. "And if we could recover the revenue currently filtered to the city for our use of Lakeview Arena - lease payments, concession sales and parking fees - we could add $240,000 annually to the proposed budget amount for this project. Combined with the $284,000 appropriation included in the proposal, this

would be enough to cover the debt service on the $6.85 million bond."

Northern can not afford to wait too long to make a decision on the Ice/Events Center, Vandament added.

"The lease at Lakeview expires this year," he said. "Rather than continue operating inefficiently with two sheets of ice, we could operate more efficiently with one.

If we choose not to pursue this project, we will forego sizeable contributions intended by donors for the sole purpose of improving facilities for our Division I hockey program. In addition, I believe there is a need for a facility with decent lighting and sound that can be used for events like concerts and large assemblies."

If fund raising efforts are successful for the center and West Science, money could be allocated to a number of other capital projects on the priority list. These include: renovating the McClintock building; establishing a learning hub in the Academic Mall; renovating art department space in Carey Hall and converting the remainder of the building to other uses; and converting portions of Hedgecock Field House to academic functions.

The proposed budget is under internal review. President Vandament will make a recommendation to the NMU Board of Control at its May 2 meeting.

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director