Fundraising efforts for new flight operations center off to a good start, says aerospace dean

Kraus hopeful to start construction by late spring.

GRAND FORKS – Interest from donors to fund a new flight operations center for UND’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences is strong, according to the college’s dean.

The new flight operations center, which will be funded entirely through private donations, has a $30 million price tag. According to Dean Robert Kraus, the Odegard school recently received a $5 million pledge from Si Robin, the namesake behind UND’s Robin Hall.

“It’s a two-to-one matching pledge, so if someone donates $100,000, $50,000 of Si’s pledge is added,” said Kraus.

The incentive of having offices within the flight operations center bearing their names has increased the number of donations in the $50 to $100,000 range.

Kraus said rising enrollment and record-breaking student flight hours underscore the need for a new flight operations center.

“The need for this building has not gone away. It has increased,” said Kraus. “Enrollment demand is so strong, we’ve already stopped admitting students for the upcoming fall semester. Even with the weather over the past month, we’re still on pace to exceed 120,000 student flying hours.”

Kraus said the current flight operations center is showing its nearly 40-year-old age.

“I received a picture from our flight operations staff a few weeks ago, and there were trash cans lined up in the lobby because the roof was leaking,” said Kraus. “There are also sloping floors in places.”

One component of the project – renovating an extension of the existing hangar housing office and classroom space – has been expedited. Bidding for construction services will begin next month, with the goal of work commencing by mid-spring.

“Additionally, UND received money from the state to repair the airplane parking ramp on the north side of the flight operations building,” said Kraus. “The ramp repairs came in under budget, so we have some funds to continue working on pavement repair, all within the original intent of what that money was appropriated to us for.”

Kraus is optimistic the funds necessary to begin construction will be raised soon. Last week, he spoke of the importance of beginning work in a timely manner.

“Ideally, we are hoping to have the money in the next few months,” said Kraus. “However, the problem we then face is getting on a timely construction schedule. With all of the other projects taking place in the region, securing a contract by the summer is paramount. I’d rather not be building in the middle of winter, so the sooner we start, the better.”