NAU closes Olympic training facility

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Northern Arizona University is closing its Center for High Altitude Training as a result of the university’s budget reduction, according to an afternoon press release from the NAU Public Affairs Office.

Two regular NAU staff members and two temporary employees will lose their positions as a result. Since its opening in 1994, the center has hosted elite athletes from around the world—about 80 percent being foreign swim teams.

Closing the Center for High Altitude Training will save the university up to $230,000 a year.

“This is not an easy decision for the university leadership,” said Mason Gerety, vice president for University Advancement. “But in this time of crisis we have to make difficult choices that will be in the best interest of all of Northern Arizona University.”

Last week, the state Legislature proposed spending reductions for the Arizona University System of $243 million for the remaining few months of the current fiscal year and $388 million for fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1. NAU’s share of the cut would be about $31.2 million for FY09 and almost $50 million for FY10.

Since June 2008, Northern Arizona University has trimmed about $10.5 million in budget reductions. At the same time, NAU experienced the highest percentage enrollment growth—6.9 percent—in the Arizona University System. It has had 15 percent enrollment growth since 2005.

The university has policies and practices in place for classified staff employees facing layoffs, which includes a 60-day notice. Service professional employees are subject to the conditions of professional service, which requires a 90-day notice for non-renewal. Additionally, Human Resources offers assistance in finding employment for employees facing layoff or non-renewal.

NAU will begin closing the center immediately but will honor commitments to a few teams that have scheduled visits through the end of the fiscal year.

“The staff has done good work, and this is a tremendous loss,” said Gerety. “However, this is a time of unprecedented budget cuts and we have to look for savings throughout all areas of the university.”

The center has never been self sufficient, Gerety said, and its duties are far removed from NAU’s core mission of providing exceptional undergraduate and graduate education as well as distance learning and research.

In 2004 the Center for High Altitude Training was designated a U.S. Olympic Training Site. “Losing the designation will be a loss to NAU and the community,” Gerety said.

Representatives of the U.S. Olympic Committee and community leaders have been notified of the university’s decision.

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