Queen’s Centre opening set for fall

$169-million budget on track, Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) says

The new swimming pool
The new swimming pool
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Bird’s eye view of seating space in the new Common Ground
Bird’s eye view of seating space in the new Common Ground
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Skylights on the second floor
Skylights on the second floor
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Women’s locker room beside the squash courts
Women’s locker room beside the squash courts
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Three years after breaking ground on the project, Phase I of the Queen’s Centre will be open by the time students arrive in September, acting Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) Bill Bryck said.

Phase I will house the new student life centre and athletics facilities.

“Production is proceeding at what would be called break-neck speed,” he said. “We’re anticipating final turnover of the building in late August.”

Construction hit a snag a few weeks ago when a forklift caught fire on site.

“The fire was put out very quickly, with no damage to the building,” he said.

Although the facility will be finished in time for the first day of classes on Sept. 14, Bryck said he doesn’t know the exact date it will be ready for use.

The University has to receive clearance from the city before it can open the centre.

Before any building is opened for public use it must be inspected by the city to ensure compliance with building codes.

“When we think we’re ready for opening the building, the inspector will come through and the fire department will inspect the fire alarms,” he said, adding that the University aims to have inspections completed in early September.

Bryck said he won’t know the final cost of Phase I until early 2010 when the School of Kinesiology is finished, but he said it’s expected to be on budget.

Phase I was originally slated to cost $124 million. In March 2008, the Board of Trustees approved $165 million in expenses, bringing the first phase $41 million over budget.

Bryck said PCL, the general contractor working on the project, gives the vice-principal (operations and finance)’s office monthly reports on their expenses and projections for the next month.

“We’re not expecting any big surprises at this point in time,” he said.

In order to offset some of the cost overrun, the University switched its contract with PCL to a fixed bid for the remainder of the construction, which guarantees the cost of materials and labour, regardless of alterations made by architects or fluctuations in the construction industry. Last October, the budget for the School of Kinesiology was increased by $7 million.

Phase I now has a total budget of $169 million, Bryck said, adding that the University has spent more than $100 million to date.

“What has been spent really doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s the final number that matters.”

Phases II and III, which include an arena, a field house and more student life space, have been put on hold indefinitely until enough money can be raised to fund the projects.

“We’re just trying to get Phase I done and cleaned up,” Bryck said.

Phase I of the centre will have three gyms, a bigger space for the Common Ground coffee house, a fireside lounge, a food court and club space.

The lounge and food court should be open by late September, Bryck said.

AMS Vice-President (Operations) Leslie Yun said last week the Common Ground would move into its new space in late August. On Friday, though, that date was pushed back.

“We’ve essentially been told we’ll see occupancy dates moved back a bit,” she said, adding that she hasn’t been told when the move will be feasible.

Yun said the Common Ground’s training schedule might affect the move’s new timetable.

The AMS signed an agreement with the University in December 2005 that stipulates the administration cover all costs associated with moving to the new centre.

“In terms of the AMS, there’s no additional cost,” Yun said.

The administration is paying for the move and all of the equipment in the new kitchen space.

The food service will open for business on Sept. 8.

At that time, clubs that have been allotted space in the new student life centre will also be able to begin moving in, Yun said.

“That’s moreso for the clubs to move in on their own schedules,” she said. “We will be ready to go and settled by September.”

No other AMS services are slated to move this year because the rest of the Queen’s Centre has been put on hold, she said.

Originally, the part of the JDUC that houses AMS services was scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt into a connecting wing between the Queen’s Centre and the rest of the JDUC.

“We had the expectation that these services would need new spaces and Alfie’s would have to close,” she said.

Now that the University has halted all further phases, including construction on the JDUC, the services won’t be moving.

“The reason why we’re not moving anymore is because, physically, there’s no need,” Yun said.

Athletics and Recreation Director Leslie Dal Cin said Phase I is important for athletics because the new facilities will give the department an increased capacity for fitness and lifestyle activities.

“The space is currently 7,000 square feet and will be 21,000 square feet,” she said. “From a facility standpoint, it’s taking what we have now and giving us a modern facility with modern amenities.” Dal Cin said she thinks the new facilities will lure students who use off-campus facilities back to campus.

Tyler Nightingale, ArtSci ’10 and a member of the varsity track team, said he thinks the new facilities will be an improvement on the University’s current workout facilities.

“I’ve checked out the specs and there is a much larger lifting area and about three times more varsity space, which has been a problem since there are more athletes than space,” he said.

Nightingale said he’s looking forward to the natural lighting the new facilities will receive.

“It’s going to be nice not to have to work out 30 metres underground.”

—With files from Rachel Kuper, David Sinkinson and Michael Woods

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