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Redesigned projects will maintain functionality

Two major construction projects on New Mexico State University's main campus in Las Cruces are being redesigned because construction bids exceeded the funds budgeted - but university officials are confident the new plans will achieve the important functional objectives of both projects.


The renovation and expansion of the Pan American Center, the university's basketball and special events arena, and Foster Hall, which houses the biology department, had been expected to start in January. Construction bids on both projects were over budget, however, largely because of unexpectedly sharp increases in the cost of construction materials.

Both projects are being redesigned and will be re-advertised for bids.

"The design teams are paring down or changing some aspects of the plans, but we will still have two wonderful projects," said Michael Rickenbaker, NMSU's director of facilities planning and construction. "We are about to invest $13 million in a science building and nearly $23 million in the Pan Am Center, and people will be very happy with both projects."

Changes to the Foster Hall project are expected to include a reduction in the square footage of a new office addition on the south side of the existing building and a reduction in the scope of the renovations planned for the original 1930 building.

"Instead of completely gutting and renovating the old part of Foster Hall, we will approach it on a room-by-room basis," said Richard Kaselow, assistant university architect.

Additional construction savings will be accomplished by installing a different type of heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the 1930 portion of the project.

Also, "we will repair some things that we would have replaced (under the previous plan)," Rickenbaker said. "But we are going to take care of the critical things, and the functionality will be preserved."

The Foster Hall project has an overall budget of about $13 million and a construction budget of about $9.5 million. The redesign is expected to be completed in time to advertise for construction bids around March 1. Construction could begin by the end of April, with completion expected by March 2007.

Because the Foster Hall project will be done in phases, some of the new or renovated portions of the building will be ready to use before the beginning of the spring 2007 semester. Renovation of the first and second floors of the 1970 wing of Foster Hall will be the last phase of the project.

While construction is taking place, some Foster Hall units will be moved into portable buildings that have been placed near Science Hall. The first move already has been made in anticipation of the start of construction this spring.

The Pan American Center project, because it will undergo more substantial design changes, is not expected to be ready to advertise for bids until July of this year.

"We had thought this project might be delayed a whole year, but as it turns out we can do the redesign over the course of the spring semester," said Ben Woods, vice president for human and physical resources. "And because we will alter how we sequence the construction work, we will be able to keep the Pan Am Center in use during the basketball season."

The Pan Am Center project has a total budget of about $22.9 million and a construction budget of about $19 million. One of the anticipated design changes is the addition of four new lobby areas, one on each side of the building, rather than expanded and relocated concourse that had been included in the previous plans.

"This will provide significantly improved lobby space, more bathrooms and more fan amenities no matter which entrance you come in," Rickebaker said.

The redesign will retain a practice court for basketball and upgraded locker facilities. However, offices may be renovated rather than replaced with new square footage.

"This revised approach will still meet the program needs of the Pan Am Center," Rickenbacker said. "Overall I think the fans and customers are going to be very impressed and pleased."

The design firms for the projects are responsible by contract for accomplishing the redesigns without additional cost to the university, Woods said.

"We have two very competent, very experienced design firms," he said. Their estimates of the construction costs of the projects as originally planned were based on historical costs and trends in the construction industry, he said.

That the bids exceeded their estimates "is consistent with what has been happening not only across New Mexico, but across the United States," Woods said, as prices on commodities such as steel and concrete, as well as fuel costs, have soared in recent months.

The design team for the Pan American Center project is led by SMPC Architects of Albuquerque. The Foster Hall design team is headed by DCSW Architects of Albuquerque.