R&M Through the Years: Alaska Airlines Center – Sports Complex and Community Gathering Space

November 26, 2019
UAA Alaska Airlines Center

The University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) is the largest university in Alaska, with almost 18,000 students attending per year. The student population has grown exponentially over the years, as has the athletics programs. There are now 13 NCAA sports teams housed within the university, including basketball, cross country running, gymnastics, hockey, skiing, track and field, and volleyball. The old Wells Fargo Sports Complex, built in 1978, had become inadequate for the varying needs of these programs.

To meet the needs of the growing university and its sports programs, UAA lobbied for a new sports facility. Funding was obtained in 2011, with design commencing that same year.

The new 196,000 square foot multi-use sports facility, named the Alaska Airlines Center, held its grand opening in 2014. The center is designed to meet the needs of both UAA and the Anchorage community and serves as an additional community venue and gathering space. It provides performance and practice venues for basketball, volleyball and gymnastics, as well as an indoor jogging track, fitness and training rooms, advanced sports medicine facilities, administration/coaching offices, laundry and Audio/Video production. Other features include locker and team rooms for skiing, track and cross country programs.

R&M was responsible for topographic and boundary surveys, geotechnical investigations and reports, civil engineering site design and related construction support services. In addition to the arena itself, the project included major site and roadway network improvements to support year-round access to the new facility.

One of these major improvements was converting the University Lake Drive intersection with Elmore Road to a roundabout. The roundabout provides traffic calming and improves public safety, in addition to accommodating the increased traffic traveling to and from the center. It is also a more aesthetic option with unique landscaping features integrated into the design.

The facility also incorporated several features to help save in operational and maintenance costs. These include a unique cooling well reinjection system that uses groundwater for building cooling with aquifer reinjection and a stormwater infiltration system designed with additional capacity to allow for maximum retention beyond the 10-year storm water management requirements. This also eliminated reliance on the roadway underground piped system.

Designed with the community in mind, the UAA Alaska Airlines Center is a first-class sports and entertainment center that will serve UAA students and the Anchorage community for years to come.