Open forums for proposed athletic centre “disappointing”

“Disappointment” was the only word that Nick Savage, Student Council Lead for the User Committee, could use to describe his feeling on the turnout of the open forums for students focusing on the proposed Laurier Athletic Centre.

Last week, two open forums were held for Laurier Brantford students regarding the future of the proposed centre, which will be done in partnership with the Brantford YMCA. Unfortunately, between the two forums a total of just 10 students showed up.

“This isn’t one of those things where we say it’s going to happen, and then it doesn’t,” Savage said. “We’re fully invested in [this], we’re sitting down, and discussing and arguing about what’s going to go into this new building. So the student input is necessary, it’s really the biggest voice that we have.”

“The sky is the limit, and any ideas that were thrown out we could feasibly look into. I mean this is going to be a complex, so there’s a whole bunch of different stuff that’s going to go in it,” Savage said.

“What we were hoping to get through these open forums is an idea of what Laurier students want to see as at least 50 percent our place to be in. Yeah, the YMCA has a set-up that they’re looking for, but they’re more than willing to comply to what student needs are. And that’s what we were hoping to get. The main question was what do students aspire to see in this building.”

The forums were set up as a chance for students to discuss what they wanted to see in the building, both in the aesthetics and design of the actual building itself, and features inside of the complex.

Though the turnout was small, the students in attendance had big ideas. The three main focuses that were brought up during the forums focused primarily on retail space inside of the complex, safety in the mixed complex, and on green initiatives.

Much of the conversations were focused on green initiatives, as those in attendance discussed everything from air vents, to the types of water fountains and ideas for the proposed “green roof” that’s planned on top of the complex.

In terms of retail space, students spoke of the desire to have healthy eating stores such as Booster Juice located somewhere inside of the complex, as well as a store that sells Laurier athletic wear, much like the Hawk Shop at the Waterloo campus.

The other major discussion of the forums focused on the idea of student safety in a complex that will be shared with those in the local population. Some students requested student-separate washrooms, while others asked for gender-based weight rooms.

Savage believes that students have an opinion of Brantford residents that is different from those that use the YMCA.

“A lot of what, I think, university student don’t understand is that it is a paid membership gym. People are giving a certain amount of money per month, every month of the year to maintain their gym memberships,” Savage said. “The target audience for the YMCA isn’t what students expect. I don’t want to say anything against what the view of the Brantford downtown is, however, with a complex as sophisticated as we’re putting up, and with the reputation of the YMCA and of Laurier, it’s going to bring a different crowd of individuals that I don’t think university students are expecting.”

Savage goes on to say that, students will not be out of their comfort zone at all, as they are building the complex with the idea that the want students to want to go there and use the facilities.

Current plans for the gym include an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a gymnasium that’s suitable to host varsity sporting events, a larger weight room, an indoor track and an expanded cardio room, as well as boardrooms and the possibility of retail space.

The current plans see the building being placed on the south side of Colborne St., on the plot to the right of the Art Stanbridge Walkway on the way to the parking garage. The main entrance will be located on Water Street, while the top floor of the four-story building will be level with Colborne Street.

The building proposal is still in the design stage with the architect CanDesign – the same group that designed the Richmond Olympic Oval speed-skating venue for the 2010 Olympics. The final design is due at the end of March, but from there the future is unclear as the school does not yet own the land.

Savage has said that new Brantford mayor, Chris Friel has been very supportive of the university and their expansion, and is hopeful that the school and YMCA will be able to buy the land in the near future.

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