Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

UA to slow development of downtown science center

Citizen Staff Writer




University of Arizona President Robert N. Shelton said Saturday that work on the University of Arizona Science Center at Rio Nuevo will slow.

Shelton said Saturday morning before tipoff at the UA-UCLA basketball game that Joel Valdez, UA senior vice president for business affairs, approached Mayor Bob Walkup and City Manager Mike Hein to talk about adjusting the project’s pace.

The Science Center, which is to share a building with a new Arizona State Museum near Origins Heritage Park, west of Interstate 10 and south of Congress Street, was to open in early 2012 with construction beginning this fall, according to a UA official’s Jan. 16 letter to Hein.

But with budget cuts already made and more looming, “We can’t spend money at this pace,” Shelton said.

The UA has spent more than $13.3 million on the project so far, according to an expenditure summary. The city is on the hook for half that amount but is about $1.3 million in arrears on its reimbursement payments.

In its contract with the city, the UA has an out on the Science Center if legislators cuts its funding. Officials are now exploring that option.

The university must make $57 million in state-mandated cuts before June 30, on top of a nearly $20 million cut taken last July. Legislators have said the university system will face even larger reductions in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

In an e-mail earlier Saturday morning, Shelton wrote: “Budgets are a ‘mess,’ to put it mildly, so short-term decisions must be made, but our long-term commitment to the Science Center downtown is strong.”

UA Vice President for External Relations Stephen MacCarthy said Friday that a detailed list of UA budget cuts would be released this week.

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