Media Move-Up: $65 Million Paul & Alice Baker Center for Public Media

By Tom Leyde

Construction of Arizona Public Media’s new headquarters is off and running.

Groundbreaking for the $65 million, state-of-the-art, three-story facility took place in January at the University of Arizona Tech Park at the Bridges. At the time, funding for the project was at 87%, with $56,504,396 raised.

The building will be named the Paul and Paul & Alice Baker Center for Public Media. The Bakers, who formerly owned and operated Arizona Mail Order Co. Inc., have contributed significantly to UArizona.

“They’ve helped AZPM really move to the next level of its goals,” said Jack Gibson, AZPM’s CEO for the past 18 years.

AZPM has needed a new home for many years. For half a century, it has operated in the basement of UArizona’s Modern Languages Building. The cramped facility contains three TV services, four radio stations and a growing number of digital platforms.

Gibson ticked off a litany of other problems the current location endures: there’s not near enough storage, noise from the HVAC system intrudes on broadcasts, and the state of the space makes it hard to recruit new students and staff.

“We do a pretty good job, but it’s far from the productions we’d like to do,” Gibson said.

Overseeing construction of the new 61,500-square-foot building, Gibson said, “is exciting and it’s terrifying at the same time.” But he and other UArizona officials did a lot of homework before the first shovels of dirt launched construction.

They looked at several locations for the new building but decided on land at the 65-acre Bridges, owned by UArizona and located 3½ miles south of the main campus. They also visited several other university media centers and asked managers what they would have done differently so they didn’t over build.

The first floor of the new AZPM building will contain Studio A, the main studio, which will include retractable seating, permanent balcony seating, as well as 5,000 square feet of space for large performance groups.

The Community Studio will have the latest audio/visual and connectivity technology and will be available for rent. A welcoming lobby and reception area will be the starting point for visitors, as well as an educational, conversational and social gathering place. Radio production and podcast studios also will be housed on the first floor.

Most of AZPM’s staff will work on the second floor. It is designed for maximum collaboration. Shared workspaces will offer greater mobility, flexibility and efficiency. Content creators will work in spaces designed for optimal productivity.

The third floor will have a rooftop deck and digital conference center with views of the Catalina Mountains in a comfortable modern setting. Both spaces will be used for donor, social or fundraising events. They also can be rented to community groups. 

The conference center will have the most innovative and high-tech features. The third floor also will include a cost-saving shell space ready for future expansion. Construction is expected to be completed in September 2025 with four to six months needed to install all of its broadcasting equipment, Gibson said.

“It’s going to be one of the biggest boons we can make to give (students and staff) the tools they can work with,” Gibson said. “It really is designed for collaboration and communication and really a sense of belonging that we really don’t have now.”

The new facility will move AZPM to the future of TV, radio and Internet protocol.

“For students, it really does prepare them for the future,” Gibson said. “Working with contemporary equipment and working in a space conducive to work is a game changer for those students who work with us.”

He said the building also will allow AZPM to offer public forums, lectures, political debates, films and other student events.

“One of the real objectives is being able to promote commercial productions, giving students skills in other kinds of production,” Gibson said. And productions will be accomplished in sound-sealed rooms without the intrusion of HVAC noise.

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