Unsatisfied with the current condition of the athletics program, Queen’s first Director of Athletics, Pat Galasso, is pushing hard for change on campus.
A Queen’s grad himself, PHE ’55, and holder of a PhD from the University of Michigan, Galasso is advocating for the construction of two new accessible buildings on main campus — a hockey arena and a fieldhouse, which would make up an indoor complex for field-based sporting events.
Queen’s has been without a rink since 2007, when the former Jock Harty Arena was removed to make way for a new rink. Nearly a decade later, Queen’s still stands without an on-campus rink, and instead has a parking lot where Jock Harty once lay.
Galasso, 85, identified five groups who’ve struggled the most without an on-campus rink: men’s and women’s hockey, figure skating and track and field teams, as well as intramural participants, particularly those playing hockey.
The closest rink to campus is the Memorial Centre, which sits just under two kilometres away from the intersection of Union St. and University Ave. The facilities the track and field team uses at RMC are a similar distance, standing at about three-and-a-half kilometres away.
Distance, as well as priority of ice and field time, are three of the biggest concerns for these teams. Figure skating gets the shortest end of the stick, often having practices at 6 a.m., while intramural hockey games often occur past midnight.
Galasso’s recent meetings with both Principal Daniel Woolf and the Queen’s Advancement Office, including one last week, have been relatively stagnant. Although the principal stated in writing that there will eventually be a rink on main campus, no real progress seems to have been made.
“The principal has said: Queen’s is a family university; we are obligated to ensure that people feel safe,” Gallaso said. “They don’t feel safe going up to the Memorial Centre in the middle of the night.”
He said having these two buildings on main campus will not only benefit athletes, but the entire Queen’s community as well.
Galasso described the many stresses of student life and how they could be combatted by having a safe, accessible space for activities in the winter, including walking, running and skating. For those who dislike the use of a treadmill, Galasso said an indoor running area is a much better alternative.
A strong advocate of promoting mental health, Galasso believes these activities can help prevent many stresses from getting worse, stopping students from turning to pharmaceuticals for treatment.
Recent meetings with Paul McDonald, president of Ottawa-based McDonald Bros. Construction Inc., have provided Galasso with monetary estimates for his ideal buildings. Galasso cites $9 million as an approximation for an NHL-sized rink.
He came up with the idea to place a full fieldhouse on top of Tindall Field, although McDonald was unsure whether the parking garage below would be able to support the weight.
The two also considered the alternative of an air-supported dome, a less expensive but still practical option, allowing use of the facilities throughout the winter months. McDonald estimated it’s cost to be about $4 million.
After his time at Queen’s, Galasso worked with the University of Windsor for 18 years, and was the founder and Dean of Human Kinetics. He said his involvement in building Windsor’s fieldhouse in the 1980s helped to further their athletic program greatly, and that Queen’s is lagging behind many Ontario schools that have a fieldhouse.
Beyond his time as director of Athletics, Galasso has a personal interest in the creation of a field house and rink.
Galasso’s son was an exceptional track athlete, being named the Canadian junior long jump champion at age 18. Though Queen’s was high on his list of school choices, he went with rival University of Toronto, largely due to their access to an on-campus fieldhouse. Galasso looks at this missed recruiting opportunity as an extremely common event.
Galasso himself was the Canadian long jump champion back in 1952, while also serving as the track coach at Queen’s during his undergraduate career. “Jumps in the family,” he said with a laugh.
Galasso was told it was about $200,000 per year to rent the Memorial Centre, combined with the costs of having to pay large, undisclosed fees to rent RMC’s track and field facilities.
“I think the money can be brought in,” Galasso said. “I’d be willing to help.”
“You’d save money [in the long term],” he said. “It’d be a safer environment, everybody wins.”
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