Costs for UCI Center Up by $3.5 Million

Times Staff Writer

UC Irvine's Donald Bren Events Center, which will be the second largest indoor theater in the county when completed, is costing 30% more than the $11.5 million originally estimated, university officials confirmed Friday.

In addition to the $3.5-million added cost for the gymnasium-auditorium, the university will be short another $300,000 because the collection of a new student fee to help pay for construction will begin three months later than expected.

The higher price tag partly is the result of inflation and higher construction costs, Chancellor Jack W. Peltason said Friday. Also, the original estimate was too low because it was made three years before construction began, he said.

Covered by Donations

However, the cost will be covered by donations and is not expected to jeopardize the progress of construction, Peltason said. The university already has found ways to meet all but $500,000 of the overrun, he explained.

Peltason's staff said the additional money will come from the following sources: $800,000 from increased student enrollment, which means more income from fees; $700,000 from a $1 surcharge on tickets sold for events at the center; $600,000 from a "seat option" plan that allows those seeking season seats to bid for sections; $800,000 from money which is part of the financing plan for another campus building; and $370,000 because one major bid came in lower than expected.

The remaining money, Peltason's staff said, is expected to be raised from donations of material, such as landscaping or decorations, plus small cash donations and from a larger student enrollment in the future.

The Bren Events Center, with seating for up to 6,000, will be the home of UCI's nationally ranked Anteater basketball team and the main site for campus cultural events. As an indoor facility, it will be second in size only to the 7,433-seat Anaheim Convention Center within the county.

It is named for Donald Bren, board chairman of the Irvine Co., who personally donated $1 million to the fund drive in 1984. The Irvine Co. donated $500,000.

Peltason, attending the UC Board of Regents meeting Friday in San Francisco, said he will present the details of the added cost to the regents at their June meeting. But he said he sees no roadblocks because the state is not being asked to pay additional funds.

Construction Continuing

"Construction is continuing, and the building will open in December as scheduled," he said.

The earlier construction estimate was needed, Peltason said, because UCI at the time was asking students to levy a new fee to help support the project. In 1982, the student body approved a $23-per-quarter fee, which will go into effect when the building opens.

The university originally predicted the fee would go into effect in the fall quarter of 1986, but its first collection will not begin until winter quarter of 1987 because the fee cannot be collected until the center opens in December, university officials said. That three-month delay caused a $300,000 shortfall in financing, officials said.

Peltason said problems were created by having to predict in 1982 construction costs for a building that would not be built for three years.

"Usually, cost estimates for a new building are made closer to the time of construction," he said. "Most of the higher cost is because the lowest bids (on construction) were higher than predicted. But it's not unusual in a project of this magnitude and complexity for costs to be somewhat higher. It's not like we were buying this off the shelf."

Coordinating Work

Horace Mitchell, UCI vice chancellor for student affairs, is coordinating the university's work to raise the needed $3.5 million. "The student fee (the $23 fee set to begin in the winter quarter of 1987) itself won't be increased, but we'll be getting more money from the fees than we expected because UCI's enrollment now is higher than we projected it would be," he said.

"Another source is using fees from another project on campus--changing the manner in which that other project is financed," he added. Mitchell explained that the other project is the university's new Student Services II Building.

Although funds may be transferred from the Student Services Building to help construct the Bren facility, this would not delay construction of the new student facility, he added. "We're also attempting to get some in-kind gifts for some of the things we'll need for the Bren Events Center," said Mitchell. "For example, if someone donated the landscaping, that would be another savings."

William H. Parker, associate vice chancellor of planning, said: "We're not happy about this, but it's not totally unexpected. For a unique type of facility such as this, the costs aren't unusual."

Open in December

Parker added that the construction has progressed on schedule.

"We'll open in December, and the first (basketball) game will be in January," he said. The dedication of the center may come later, after final decorations are completed.

When the UC Board of Regents gave final approval for the center in March, 1984, the financing arrangement called for an $11.5-million price tag. The regents said that $7.7 million of the cost would come from revenue bonds to be paid off by income from the student fees. The remaining $3.8 million was to come from private donations.

The private fund drive went over the top in August, 1985. Ground breaking for the new center took place the previous spring.

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