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Rooms to Rent

Checking in soon to downtown Tucson: a new hotel and convention complex. The Tucson Convention Headquarters Hotel Selection Committee announced it wanted to combine three of the four proposals it had received into one massive project that would include a 1,000-room hotel complex as part of a plan to build a new arena and remodel the existing Tucson Convention Center.

The plan calls for the city to purchase seven acres of undeveloped land at Granada Avenue and Interstate 10 for $17 million, as well as the existing Hotel Arizona and adjacent, privately owned property for $28 million. The existing hotel will be renovated, with a new building constructed if and when the market is right.

Checking out of downtown Tucson: plans for Presidio Terrace, a condo tower that was planned near the Tucson Museum of Art. Rio Nuevo officials decided that developer Peggy Noonan's project, which had changed from condos to apartments as a result of the continuing collapse of the housing market, was no longer viable. The city will seek new developers for the property.


Tuition Creep

In his State of the University address, UA President Robert Shelton praised several innovative programs and called for raises for faculty members, more state support in the form of matching funds and more endowed professorships.

If Shelton gets his way, UA students will have a little less to spend on food, booze and Dance Dance Revolution. Shelton has proposed a $450 increase for in-state undergrad tuition in the next academic year, and a $2,350 increase for nonresident undergrad tuition, as well as a phased-in $80 annual fee to support health, counseling and safety programs.

Also on Shelton's wish list: new or increased fees for law school, the College of Pharmacy and business, optical and journalism programs.

University officials noted that tuition at the UA would remain in the bottom third of major public universities, and that only one-third of incoming freshman pay retail. The rest get some form of financial aid.

The Arizona Board of Regents will decide whether to approve Shelton's proposals in December.


Fife Wants to Believe

Fife Symington, the former Arizona governor who was forced to resign after being convicted of fraud in federal court, moderated a discussion at the National Press Club about the so-called Phoenix Lights incident, in which Arizona residents believed they saw an unidentified craft 10 years ago.

Symington now says he is among those who believe they saw the UFO pass over Phoenix, but he initially made light of the episode to keep people calm.

"The growing hysteria intensified when the story broke nationally," Symington wrote in an article posted on CNN.com. "I decided to lighten the mood of the state by calling a press conference where my chief of staff arrived in an alien costume. We managed to lessen the sense of panic but, at the same time, upset many of my constituents."

Yes, how well we remember the sense of panic that was gripping Arizona 10 years ago! People running through the streets, screaming things like, "Watch the skies!" and, "It's a cookbook!" At least until Fife held his press conference and everyone calmed down right down. Way to save the day, Fife!

"I would now like to set the record straight," Symington continued in his article. "I never meant to ridicule anyone. My office did make inquiries as to the origin of the craft, but to this day, they remain unanswered."

Skeptics point out that military officials later said they were operating a training run along the same path as the alleged UFO and dropped flares that corresponded precisely with another report of floating lights.


No Joy in Mudville

More bad news on the spring-training front: The Sunday paper brings us the depressing news that the Colorado Rockies are flirting with Goodyear. The Rockies are free to leave Tucson if the Chicago White Sox follow through on their plans to move to Glendale in 2009. The National League champs are requesting millions of dollars in renovations at Hi Corbett Field as part of a deal to remain in Tucson.


For Whom the Bell Tolls

Congratulations to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who married NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. The lucky couple wed last Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Agua Linda Farm in Amado. The Range would have brought you an on-the-spot report, but our invitation appears to have been lost in the mail.

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