Gym, food court open

Queen’s Centre opened Dec. 1

Students jump into the 14-lane pool in the new Athletics and Recreation Centre early Tuesday morning.
Students jump into the 14-lane pool in the new Athletics and Recreation Centre early Tuesday morning.

Industrial-sized fans were still drying the paint on the walls as the long-awaited Queen’s Centre finally opened its doors at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.

“We’ve really wanted this for so long,” Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities) Ann Browne said.

The facility, which is Phase I of the Queen’s Centre, includes a bigger Common Ground coffeehouse, a food court, a student lounge, club space and a new Athletics and Recreation Centre, she said.

Everything except the varsity gym is open by today, she said.

“I don’t think there’s anything in there that you won’t go, ‘Wow,’” she said.

Browne said a Queen’s Centre was first discussed in the 1997 Review of Athletics in the Dryden Report.

She said since the project was conceived, hundreds of people have worked on it, including the 250 to 300 construction workers on site daily.

“The biggest challenge on a project that goes on this long is keeping people motivated and happy because everybody gets tired by this point,” she said, adding that even though finances are tight, she thinks the Queen’s Centre is worthwhile.

“Everyone works very hard; you need to have somewhere where you can go and feel comfortable,” she said. “Timing’s not always right in life, but isn’t it nice to have something good in hard times?”

Acting Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) Bill Bryck echoed Browne’s sentiments.

“When I came to Queen’s a year ago last week it was one huge construction site and it was very gratifying today to see it finally coming together,” Bryck said. “It’s just a gorgeous building. … We should be able to get more good football players when they see the weight room.”

Bryck said other universities, such as the University of Western Ontario, McMaster University and the University of Toronto, have upgraded their student centres and athletics facilities in recent years.

Phase I of the original three-phase project ran $41 million over budget in February 2008 and the new budget for the project was set at $230 million.

“All indications are, we’re going to bring it right on that,” Bryck said, adding that Phase I is projected to cost $169 million but the total won’t be reported until spring, when the new School of Kinesiology is finished.

Bryck said the Queen’s Centre has been financed through University and borrowed funds, which still need to be paid back.

“We’re talking to people all the time about opportunities to name rooms and things like that,” he said, adding there’s no specific amount the University is looking for but he hopes there will be generous donations.

AMS Vice-President (Operations) Leslie Yun said she thinks the student life centre is the culmination of many years of vision and planning.

“To actually see it open is a really exciting thing for me,” Yun said. “It’s a very dynamic building. … We expect students to make their home there.”

Yun said although the building opened on Dec. 1, the grand opening ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 15.

She said once Phases II and III, which have been put on hold indefinitely, are completed, club space in the JDUC could be turned into residence spaces.

Yun said it hasn’t been determined what the Common Ground lounge space in the JDUC will be used for yet.

The idea of turning the space into a lounge for graduate students was discussed at AMS Assembly on Nov. 13, but Society of Professional and Graduate Students Vice-President (Finances and Services) Amir Nosrat told the Journal on Nov. 20 nothing is finalized.

“We think it’s important that the space is kept alive,” Yun said. “We’re trying to evaluate some options to allow us to utilise that space.”

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