September 23, 2020

Conestoga’s recreation centre will soon be one of the premier athPaul Osborne and rec centreletic facilities in Ontario, thanks to a $16-million upgrade.
The new centre will include a triple gym, larger fitness facilities and multi-purpose space, a 200-metre indoor running track and a lounge area where students can socialize.
One casualty of the project is the ice rink, which is being removed because less than two per cent of the student population used it and it required extensive repairs.
Paul Osborne, Conestoga’s associate vice-president of marketing, enrolment management and athletics, said the centre opened in 1980 when the college had 2,500 students and now it has more than 11,000.
“It was time for a refresh,” he said. “It’s disappointing to have to close the rink but if we kept it, it was going to cost between $3 million and
$7 million in upgrades.”
Osborne said the metal arches have to be sandblasted and repainted and the wood is all rotted and needs replacing.
“We had to ask ourselves, should we do a major renovation of the existing facility or are we better to put that money into new facilities that will be used more by the students.”
Conestoga Students Inc., the association that represents students at all campuses, is funding the entire project. An initial, one-time donation of $500,000 will be paid from a $945,000 budget surplus that was accrued over previous years, and then a $55.60 per semester student development fee that was first put in place to pay for the new Student Life Centre will be redirected to pay for the rec centre.
According to Osborne, the Student Life Centre is pretty close to being paid for.
“It (the fee) will go up 8 per cent over time to about $62 to pay for the mortgage on the rec centre.”
In addition, CSI will pay to furnish the centre with all new equipment and furniture and will set money aside to replace these items as needed.
Jeff Scherer, CSI president, said he is excited about the project.
“The space inside was concerning. We needed more gym space, a larger fitness space and general use space as well,” he said. “This project is more than meeting those needs.
“Plus, the rec centre is the first thing everyone sees when coming to the campus. Having a new building presents a good image.”
Scherer said a few students have told him they aren’t happy that the ice rink is being removed, but it is a small price to pay for the addition of three gyms.
“Results from two student surveys we did tell us we are making the right move. It looks spectacular. I can’t wait for construction to start so we can see the finished product.”
Twenty-two architect firms bid on the project, with MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects being the unanimous choice. Osborne said the company is one of the leading firms for sports facilities.
In addition to going from two gyms to five, the new rec centre will have a state-of-the-art, 8,500-square-foot fitness/workout facility, more than doubling the size of the current 3,500-square-foot facility, and a 5,000-square-foot multi-purpose room which will be able to accommodate 250 people. Movable walls are being installed so the large room can be sectioned off into smaller ones.
As well, the centre will feature a 4,500-square-foot wellness area with offices for the massage therapist and chiropractor who are currently located in the Student Life Centre, and for the athletic therapist who works with Conestoga’s varsity athletes.
The triple gym will have a hardwood sprung floor instead of the rubber multi-purpose floor in the double gym, which, according to Osborne, is safer and enhances athletic performance.
More gym space was one of the main goals of the project, as students pay a recreation/athletics fee of $66.60 per semester but currently have limited access to the gyms.
“Students in the fire, paramedic and police programs use the gyms as part of their academics from approximately 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, and then varsity practices take place after that,” Osborne said. “So, with just two gyms currently, there is not a lot of time for intramurals and our varsity teams practise half as much as other colleges.
“By adding three gyms, one gym will always be open for drop-in, and intramurals can be offered earlier in the day. And, once construction is complete, a fitness elective may be offered which students in all programs could take. The course would have classes on proper diet and fitness as well as a gym component.”
In addition, basketball will be added to the varsity program, although it will take several years to get it up and running. Osborne predicted women’s and men’s teams will be playing games in 2016 but won’t be official OCAA teams until 2017.
Construction on the project began this summer, with parts of the rink and an overhead walkway from the E-wing to the rec centre being removed. The bulk of the work gets underway in the next few weeks, with the rink’s interior being stripped to the girders. All that will remain are the cement floor which was found to be in good shape, and the arches because the two sets support and architecturally complement each other, and they are unique in their design.
The project, which is expected to be completed by September 2015, will also feature a large glass wall facing Homer Watson Boulevard, allowing natural light to stream in, and a similar wall on the opposite side, behind which will be the fitness facility.
The main entrance will be moved so it faces the E-wing instead of Homer Watson, and a covered walkway will extend out from the main campus building to the road in front of the rec centre.
During construction the old gym and fitness centre will remain open. However, the rec centre doors facing the E-wing will be closed, forcing students to walk around the building to gain access.
“It will be a little bit of a pain but the outcome will be pretty spectacular,” Osborne said. “It will be a beautiful social space – bright and airy. It will be one of the nicest places on campus.”

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