By: Erin Tanner
The Athletics Department is looking to the future – 2022 to be exact. Early that year the new Lancer Sport and Recreation Centre (LSRC) is set to be opened. The new building will have a variety of modern facilities aimed at improving students’ access to recreation and physical activity and will add to what the St. Denis Centre currently offers. While preparations for the construction has begun, the heavy lifting lies ahead and the campus is still years away from having access to the new facilities.
This project has been in the works for years – that’s the way it goes for projects of this magnitude. According to Mike Havey, the University of Windsor’s Athletic Director, as early as the mid-1990s the university recognized that the St. Denis Centre would not be able to accommodate the growing student population. However, this particular project was developed in 2013. Havey noted that student referendums were originally held in 2013 (and again four more times) in order to assure the university had support from the student body. The students have given their consent, and construction on the LSRC is set to commence shortly.
Last year, the sewer main was relocated in preparation for the new build. Additionally, the Dennis Fairall Fieldhouse received a retrofit through the Greenhouse Gas Campus Retrofits Program, which made the building more energy efficient. These upgrades served as preparatory measures to ensure the site would be ready for the LSRC construction. Havey noted that while these upgrades were not “very sexy,” they needed to be done in order to move forward with the LSRC project and to keep the existing St. Denis Centre as up to date as possible.
The current St. Denis Centre houses the campus’ only sport and recreation spaces. These facilities accommodate a variety of needs, including those of varsity athletes, the student body, and the community surrounding the university. Currently, the St. Denis Centre struggles to house all of these events.
“When we hold one event in there, it happens almost at the exclusion of other events because it’s a single space,” described Havey. He further explained that if an event, such as a varsity sports game or practice, is taking place in the Dennis Fairall Fieldhouse no other group is able to use the gymnasium. He argued that with more facilities and spaces, this will be less of an issue in the future.
Frank Jeney, the Facility Manager of the St. Denis Centre, echoed this statement. Jeney is enthusiastic about the updated spaces coming to the LSRC, predicting that they will make scheduling multiple events on the same day easier.
“I think it’s going to be an immense difference,” remarked Jeney. “I mean it might not even seem like you’re in the same space.” With new facilities including a larger pool, a triple-sized gymnasium, several multi-purpose rooms, and more, Jeney believes that the new space will provide new opportunities for students.
This sentiment is shared by the Dean of the Faculty of Human Kinetics, Dr. Michael Khan. He hopes that the new spaces and facilities allow students to have more opportunities to access recreation and physical activity, as well as new spaces for socializing and studying.
Khan highlighted the benefits students achieve when they have access to sport and recreation, noting that it can improve emotional health and cognitive abilities, in addition to the improvements to their overall physical health.
“So really this project is all about enriching the lives of our students,” Khan explained. He wants the student population to have as many opportunities for sport and recreation as possible.
Students use the current facilities for a number of reasons. Aside from varsity sports, which have priority over the facilities, many students also participate in other forms of physical activity, such as intramural sports. Giulia Barile, the University of Windsor’s Intramurals Coordinator, noted the importance of intramural sports for the campus. She explained that the programs she oversees afford many students access to sport.
Currently, aside from hockey, all the intramural sports utilize spaces around the St. Denis Centre. Barile has to schedule a time for her leagues to play, working around other events such as varsity games and practices. The LSRC and its new facilities would provide intramurals more and better opportunities to offer programming. For example, there will be fewer scheduling conflicts with varsity sports in the future due to the number of new facilities in addition to the existing ones.
“It’ll help us expand and give a better experience for the students,” commented Barile, referring to the LSRC. As any student can partake in intramural sports, Barile believes the new facilities will help her programs have the space they need to expand and will subsequently benefit all of the students involved. This is in line with Khan’s hopes for the new facilities, that future students will have more opportunities to access sport and recreation. Through these additional facilities and potential improvements to programs, students will be able to improve their mental and physical wellbeing more easily.
Despite the many long-term benefits of the LSRC, there will be some short-term disruptions during the course of construction. According to Havey, the disruptions will not be as severe as those from the retrofitting and upgrades that were completed last year, which included road closures as well as closures to the Dennis Fairall Fieldhouse.
“Obviously it’s a huge project, so it’s inevitable that we are going to have disruptions on campus,” cautioned Khan. The work involved in the construction of the LSRC is extensive, so some minor inconveniences around the site are to be expected.
“It [the construction] shouldn’t affect day to day operations [of the St. Denis Centre],” assured Jeney, though he did note that some small disruptions may come up as the project gets underway. Jeney believes that the biggest challenge for him, as the Facility Manager, over the next coming years will be dealing with the realities of a construction site. He is aware that the St. Denis Centre will have to cope with the facilities sounding and feeling like a construction site throughout the building process.
Additionally, the project may directly affect some aspects of student life, such as the intramural programming mentioned previously. Though Barile is attempting to make the transition to the LSRC as smooth as possible, over the next few years she will face some obstacles as she manages her programming.
“With this construction, we’re having to jump through a few hoops already,” Barile confessed. The intramural programming this year has already faced challenges. The lights on the grass fields don’t work, which has caused scheduling issues; games have had to be cancelled or rescheduled. Now, as construction is getting ready to begin, Barile has lost access to those grass fields altogether.
A student worker she supervises, fourth-year Kinesiology student Carla Colomba, agreed with Barile.
“As a sports manager for Ultimate Frisbee, I’ve had some conflicts with scheduling and using the grass fields,” said Colomba. The times when the Ultimate Frisbee games have been played have changed throughout the term, as the league has had to use different fields. Now that the varsity soccer season has concluded, Colomba and Barile have been able to relocate the Ultimate Frisbee to play on Alumni Field.
Colomba discussed how the league used to play to simultaneous games, one on each of the grass fields. However, due to the relocation, only one game can be played at a time for the remainder of the season. This has affected the scheduling of the league, although it has allowed the intramural program to work around the construction preparations around the grass fields.
While this may seem minor, it is merely one of the first concessions student recreational activities will have to make for the LSRC construction over the next couple of years.
“I kind of find out as we go,” Barile remarked. “We don’t know exactly what is going to happen – well at least I don’t, the people who are running the project will know.” Barile, and the programs she oversees will have to be flexible throughout the next few years. She wants to ensure that as many sports as possible can run without interference from the construction, but she cannot guarantee what will happen even next year.
“I know it’ll be tough for a couple of years, but in the long run it’ll be so beneficial for our leagues,” Barile said in a hopeful tone. She is confident that as soon as the new facilities are opened, students will have far more opportunities to participate in sport and recreation.
What Barile emphasized most of all, is that the campus needs to be patient while the construction is underway. It’s inevitable that certain obstacles or inconveniences will arise, but Barile believes the LSRC will be worth the hassle.
“It certainly will enhance what we do on campus,” ensured Khan. He remained adamant that the new and improved facilities would positively affect student experience for student athletes, as well as the rest of the student body once the construction is completed. Khan emphasized the opportunities the LSRC will bring to campus. These opportunities include more student jobs, according to Jeney.
“We’ll have more staff on schedule,” Jeney claimed. “There will be more student job opportunities.” While the existing staff will have to adapt to the new facilities, once the LSRC opens, there will be many more facilities to supervise.
“It’s going to change student life. I think that’s what’s going to be exciting for students,” Khan stated. “Really, what this project is all about is providing opportunity.” He believes that the most important aspect of this construction is that the student body actually benefits from the LSRC. He wants students to feel pride for their university and the facilities they have access to.
“I’m excited for when those doors open and to see the looks on the students’ faces and the community’s faces,” proclaimed Havey, eagerly waiting for 2022. However, students and faculty alike will have to be patient. This project still has years of construction ahead of it.
“For all of our users, we all need to collectively remember that the end result is going to outweigh the short-term pains that we’re all feeling,” reiterated Jeney.
Looking to the future, Lancers have a lot to be excited for. The LSRC has been sold to the campus as a much-needed improvement that will benefit the entire student body. While there may be some hassles over the next few years, the Athletic Department is adamant in ensuring the LSCR will be worth the trouble. Barring complication, in 2022 the Lancers will have a new and improved home that will offer the University of Windsor’s students the opportunities they deserve.
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