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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Rainbow Bridge will enliven Tucson

    Even the proudest Tucsonan will testify that life in Tucson can be quite mundane.

    Ask any UA student about the excitement of our college town and you’re almost guaranteed a sarcastic response.

    Aside from the usual frat parties and the standard options on Fourth Avenue – or perhaps sitting at Starbucks on East University Boulevard until you get kicked out – one has to be pretty creative to find something to do in the appropriately dubbed Old Pueblo.

    Need proof? Tucson was named one of “”America’s 100 Best Retirement Towns”” by Where to Retire magazine, and Money magazine ranks it in the top six places to retire. Any city that attracts flocks of the elderly is bound to be slow-paced, but people of all ages could benefit from a little more energy.

    In that spirit, city leaders have created the Rio Nuevo development project, a plan to revitalize downtown Tucson. The main emphasis of the project, which is waiting only for word from the state Legislature that it will continue to be funded, has been the Rainbow Bridge Science Center Project, a plan to move the UA science center downtown.

    The American Institute of Architects in Arizona Web site says, “”The Rainbow Bridge is made up of the shapes and forms of the surrounding mountains and hills, and of the rainbow, which symbolizes the importance of water to our desert community.””

    It’s a 376-foot arch designed by New York firm Rafael ViÇñoly Architects that extends across Interstate 10 and the Santa Cruz River, housing science-based activities in a civic plaza east of I-10 and the historical and cultural activities in a cultural plaza on the west side of the Santa Cruz. The science center’s main exhibit hall would hang below the bridge’s arch, and the total project would house more than a dozen science center components, including a 24-hour observatory, a butterfly enclosure and an IMAX theater.

    Many UA students welcome the project, explaining that it would bring more excitement to downtown Tucson. Sohaib Fellah, an undeclared freshman, said he thinks the new science center would give students something to do.

    “”Sometimes you don’t want to go out partying, but you don’t want to stay indoors, so having a more exciting downtown would give you more options,”” said Fellah.

    Alexis Faust, executive director of the Flandrau Science Center, said ViÇñoly’s design would be a tourist destination in itself because of its iconic structure. Faust said the bridge would serve as a landmark to attract out-of-state tourists.

    “”The arch would be the support structure for the science center and pedestrian bridge, which would provide panoramic views of the city and its mountainscapes,”” Faust said.

    According to planners, more than 80 percent of revenue generated by the science center is expected to come from tourists drawn by the architectural design of the bridge. The plan’s supporters are confident the project, if fully funded, will deliver.

    Last year ConsultEcon Inc., a Cambridge, Mass., research firm, lent some credence to Rio Nuevo advocates’ claims: The study projected that the Rainbow Bridge, estimated at a cost of $350 million, would bring in $305 million annually and would create over 4,000 new jobs.

    President Peter Likins praised the project in his 2004 State of the University address, saying it symbolized Tucson’s unique culture and that it would make the UA stand out.

    He also said the project would enable the UA to “”transform our venerable Flandrau Science Center on campus into the most dramatic architectural and cultural statement in Tucson’s Rio Nuevo redevelopment project, anchoring the renaissance of central Tucson and connecting the city to the university forever.””

    The relationship between a city and its university is just as important as the relationship between a university and its students. A city’s attractions are vital for improving the reputation of the university; students are attracted to an institution not simply because of its educational merits, but also because of its location and environment. The more Tucson has to offer, the better the UA’s chance of attracting valuable applicants.

    Yusra Tekbali is junior majoring in journalism and Near Eastern studies. She can be reached at

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