Queen’s Centre an estimated $16-$20M over budget

Inflation, competitive market may drive up cost 7 to 10 per cent, VP Andrew Simpson says

Although the Queen’s Centre is beginning late, it’s still expected to be completed on schedule—September 2009.
Although the Queen’s Centre is beginning late, it’s still expected to be completed on schedule—September 2009.
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Tonight will mark the official groundbreaking ceremony of the $230-million Queen’s Centre, a project already estimated to be $16.1 million to $20 million over budget.

Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) Andrew Simpson said the University is doing its best to keep
the project on budget. “We were advised by cost consultants that because of the level of escalation and inflation in the construction industry, the overall project looked like it would go over budget,” he said.

“We’ve been working … to find ways in which we can go forward and hopefully lessen the impact of the escalation to the point where we can meet our budget targets.” Simpson said he expects the cost of the project will come within seven to 10 per cent of the proposed price tag. This equates to a $16.1 to $23 million increase in cost. “All our efforts need to continue to be able to keep it at the 230 [million dollar] level,” he said.

Simpson said the rising costs are due to a number of factors. “Anecdotally, a lot of construction people have moved out to Alberta to meet the needs out there and so that’s created an environment in Ontario which means there’s a shortage of people in certain disciplines, in certain areas that obviously drive the price up,” he said, adding that certain products, like steel, have been at all-time price highs, which also contributes to the inflated cost. “We can allow for inflation, but hadn’t allowed for enough of the extreme escalation that’s taking place in the industry,” he said.

Simpson said his office is currently looking over key areas of the Queen’s Centre plan to figure out how to be more efficient and save costs without cutting back on quality.

He said that by mid-year, they should have a better idea of how much Phase One will actually cost.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us in the next six months or so as we go through all of that,” he said.
Although construction was originally slated to begin last summer, Simpson said he’s optimistic Phase One of the $230-million Queen’s Centre will be completed on schedule, by fall 2009.

Phase One of construction is comprised of the aquatic centre, athletic facilities and the school of
kinesiology and health studies. According to the Queen’s Centre website, the athletic facilities include a varsity gymnasium, two practice gymnasiums, a fitness and weight centre, locker rooms, underground
parking facilities, a loading dock, student space and food facilities. The new School of Kinesiology
and Health Studies building will occupy the space where Jock Harty Arena now stands, on the corner of Union and Division streets. Simpson said Phase One comprises such a large part of the overall project so the transition between buildings could be easier. The reason for that is so we can limit as much as possible the issue of people having to move twice,” he said, adding that this way services won’t be displaced. “People can get out of the old pool and they can jump in the new pool.”

Herb Steacy, chair of facilities and services for the department of athletics, said Jock Harty Arena,
which will be demolished this summer, will be the only facility displaced by the construction.

“We’re actively working on replacement ice for our intramural programs and hockey and figure skating,” he said, adding that they’re close to making final arrangements, but that he couldn’t name any potential locations because nothing has been finalized.

“All our other services inside the PEC will remain the same until we move into the first phase in 2009.
… We won’t see any reduction in services.” Steacy said there will be some challenges around keeping the building clean during construction, but the University has plans in place to deal with that.

Steacy said the School of Kinesiology won’t see many changes either.

“All the labs and classrooms will stay the same. We’ll still have some classrooms in [the building],” he
said, adding that the school already uses classrooms across campus. Jo Brett, faculty services manager for the University Registrar, said April exams will be held in classrooms and in Grant Hall.
“We switched to using classrooms for scheduling December exams,” she said, adding that the change worked well.

Ann Browne, associate vice-principal (facilities), said the University is in good shape to start construction in March. “We’re working with the city on our permits and finalizing everything,” she said. “Our whole goal was we had to get in the ground in March and we are going to be in the ground in
March,” she said. “[The groundbreaking is] monumental for us. … It’s going to show everyone the reality of what’s finally happening.”

—With files from Florence Li and Anna Mehler Paperny

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