The Utility Tunnels

The Utility Tunnels. They were the sources of some weddings
The Utility Tunnels. They were the sources of some shot-gun weddings

"It has been documented that the University of Arizona's utility tunnels served as esoteric and connubial classrooms, where the learning experience was extensive, but students received no credit."

A University of Arizona professor said the above. But the documentation, if it exists at all, has been elusive. The first of the utility tunnels was built in 1931; Buildings and Grounds designed it. Roy Place designed a number of others, as did Lew. Costs have varied. The tunnels carry electricity lines, telephone lines, heating conduits and in some cases, water lines. They run from building to building and their inlets to the buildings are in the basements of the structures. Access by persons wanting to make repairs or to use them for extra-curricular campus activities is simple.

The first tunnels were built by Clinton Campbell, of Phoenix, at a total cost of $49,275. Records do not show whether the cost of the first tunnels came from a single appropriation from the state Legislature, but usually, the expense of the tunnels came from buildings and grounds funds or from a single appropriation for the building concerned.

Buildings and Grounds – or Physical Resources as the department is now known – could use money left over from construction for capital improvements without special authorization from the Legislature. During World War II, the tunnels were designated as bomb shelters and food and water were kept in them.

Fatal accidents have been few in UA campus construction, but during the building of the Auditorium and the State Museum, a fatality did occur. Two men, according to Lew Place, were doing some electrical work in a connecting tunnel. "Roy Place went there to take a look at it, along with Bill Bray, when one of the men came running out of the tunnel. He ran right through the end of the tunnel and was gone. The other man, it was discovered, had been electrocuted. No one on the job ever saw the man who ran again."

The tunnels were also used for girl-watching. At one time, a girls' shower room was located in the basement, so the story goes, and a grill covered the entrance to the tunnel. Girl-watchers would stand within the tunnel and watch the girls through the grill.

And they were used by male and female students. The professor who came up with the quote said, "They were the sources of some shot-gun weddings."

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