ANCHORAGE (AP) -- BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. plans to build a $7.1 million meeting and education center for nonprofit organizations adjacent to its Midtown Anchorage headquarters.
Construction of the 12,000-square-foot BP Energy Center will begin this spring, with opening scheduled for mid-2002.
Richard Campbell, Alaska president for BP, said the idea is to give nonprofits, as well as school groups and Alaskans, a nice place for meetings and training sessions. Users won't be charged and BP will pay the center's annual operating costs of up to $700,000 a year, he said.
The center also will feature interpretive and interactive displays, aimed mostly at students, about the technologies used in oil and gas development.
The construction and operating costs will count as part of BP's multimillion-dollar commitment to community giving, as formalized in an agreement last year with the state. BP signed the agreement to address the state's antitrust concerns about BP's takeover of Alaska's other dominant oil company, Atlantic Richfield Co.
''We think this is a very good way to spend that money,'' Campbell said.
Campbell and other BP officials said Wednesday the decision to build the center came after the company sounded out community leaders on lasting ideas to help Anchorage and the state.
Dennis McMillian, chief professional officer for United Way of Anchorage, said he expects the center will be an instant hit among nonprofits long in need of nice rooms to meet, train and hold retreats.
''This is like a blessing for us to get this kind of space,'' said McMillian.
The two-story center will feature three pods connected by glass corridors that will double as exhibit spaces. Six meeting rooms will have capacity ranging from 25 to 100 people. All the rooms will be equipped for teleconferences and the center will have banquet capabilities.
BP spokesman Paul Laird said one goal of the center will be to educate visitors about the oil industry, ever the source of intense controversy on environmental issues. But mainly, the center is a response to a community need, he said.
''If people feel good about us for providing that, all the better,'' Laird said.
BP runs most of the North Slope oil fields, is the state's number-two oil producer and holds a half interest in the trans-Alaska pipeline and Valdez tanker port.
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