Next step for Queen’s Centre

Arena likely to be moved to west campus; AMS allocates student contributions

After two town hall meetings in less than a week, details of the next step of Queen’s Centre construction are still uncertain. Although plans indicate installation of a pre-fabricated arena on west campus will go ahead, the project team has yet to decide which part of phase two will go up on main campus.

Associate Dean of Student Affairs Roxy Dennison-Stewart told the Journal Monday that the Board of Trustees hasn’t been considering plans for an arena in the Queen’s Centre since at least December.

“It just hasn’t shown up in any diagrams, so it’s hard to imagine that it would show back up.”

Dennison-Stewart said the official decision to build an arena on west campus won’t be made until the Board of Trustees meeting on Mar. 6.

“The conventional wisdom we’ve been taking about involves the arena on west campus, but the technical decision hasn’t been made,” she said.

Dennison-Stewart said the change may provide new benefits for students, even though it differs from the on-campus arena that was part of the original Queen’s Centre design and was approved at the March 2005 annual general meeting. She said the Board is still providing the promised arena and that the new design may result in greater use of west campus.

“I’m not sure that I would phrase it that the students didn’t get what they wanted,” she said. “While some of the pieces may not be in the same order, the overall facility will be tremendous. We really have to focus on what we’re gaining.”

One benefit of the change is to allow for spectator seating in the fieldhouse, which wasn’t in the original plans, Dennison-Stewart said. She added that the change in plans is largely due to the increased financial pressures on the Queen’s Centre project, as a pre-fabricated arena on west campus is much less expensive than an integrated arena and fieldhouse. She couldn’t comment on the exact savings involved.

“Things change; we have to reflect that change as much as we possibly can,” she said. “We have to use the students’ money wisely. It’s all about providing the best opportunities for students within the dollars available to us.”

Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin said she also didn’t have enough information to comment on the specific financial savings of building a pre-fabricated arena on west campus.

“I have no idea of the numbers,” she said.

Dal Cin said building the fieldhouse next will favour students by providing more options for recreation, intramurals and varsity athletics.

Associate Director of facilities Herb Steacy said the new design for the fieldhouse will provide a multi-use facility on campus that can be utilized for concerts, ceremonies, exams and assemblies similar to the old Jock Harty Arena. He said a stand-alone fieldhouse will be even more multi-purpose than the old arena was.

“This will be nicer and more versatile,” he said.

On Monday night, AMS Assembly voted unanimously to recommend building the student life centre before the fieldhouse.

Rector Leora Jackson said supporting this plan is more in tune with the goals of the AMS.

“We’re charged with representing student interests, and although the student life centre and JDUC renovation is more expensive, it represents more students.”

Assembly also voted to allocate the student contributions to the Queen’s Centre to specific phases. $7.7 million of the remaining contribution is to be allocated to the student life centre, with another $5.4 million earmarked for the renovations of the JDUC, $4 million going to the construction of the fieldhouse and $4 million towards the construction of the arena.

AMS President Talia Radcliffe said the plan will keep the University accountable to students.The AMS won’t allocate the money during periods when construction is paused.

“The University has indicated that there is no timeline,” she said. “The original timeline was to be finished by 2016, now the University has just said that Phase Two will start by 2010. The rest is a mystery.”

Radcliffe said the motion to allocate student dollars among the phases isn’t meant to antagonize the administration.

“The idea behind this is less of a threat and more of a commitment that the construction will continue,” she said. “There is a pretty significant need to give our recommendation teeth.”

Radcliffe said the executive decided against tying the dollars to the University’s decision on which phase to build first because they didn’t feel that was appropriate.

“We didn’t want to compromise the integrity of the entire program,” she said.

Chair of the AMS board of directors Kaitlyn Young brought forward an amendment to the allocation motion that the planned contributions from the AMS would be renegotiated if construction on all phases had not begun by 2016. She said this was to prevent the project from continuing indefinitely.

“We need to make it clear that this contribution will expire.”

CESA President Todd Ormiston said supporting this plan ensures that the student life centre will be constructed quickly.

“There’s a fear amongst students that if the fieldhouse is built, the student life centre would not be built for another 20 years.”

Ormiston said ideally, the motion won’t change the previous agreement between the AMS and the University.

“If they start on time, which they should, nothing will change,” he said. “We’re just saying, ‘Don’t wait 25 years to finish this.’”

Queen’s Centre project controller David Crabb told the Journal Monday that budgets for building either option haven’t been finalized yet.

“I’m meeting with the principal and the v.p. operations and finance tomorrow at 3:15. That’s when we’ll be discussing the phasing options for phases two and three, so I’m preparing something for that meeting and I won’t be able to provide anything until after the meeting.”

Crabb said the renovation of the JDUC has to be factored into the budget as well.

“The potential is that you could go in and cut the whole JDUC and redo it. It depends on what options and what money is available. At this point we’re not sure about that.”

Crabb said the University has spent $81.2 million of its $169 million budget for Phase One. The original projected estimate in 2004 for Phase One was set at $124 million.

Crabb said he doesn’t know how much of the Queen’s Centre funding comes from alumni dollars.

The University’s options might be limited by the state of the project’s finances, Crabb said.

“It may come down to the debt capacity that the University has. If we take on more debt capacity, there’s an impact to the overall operating budget. So, taking on any additional debt right now may be an issue for the University. That’s something the principal has communicated in his financial updates.”

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