BirdCoop to triple in size, have new location by 2018

Finding the energy to work out in UBC’s BirdCoop gym can be a demanding test of one’s self-discipline and patience. Not only are you fighting your lack of motivation after a long day of classes, you are probably waiting behind three of your sweaty student brethren to use the same machine.

Come next year, that could all change. 

The AMS is working with UBC Athletics and Recreation to expand the BirdCoop by three times its current size, using the basement space of the old Student Union Building in 2018.

The move addresses student access to fitness and recreation spaces on campus, with the university committing $5 million to cover the cost of the expansion.

AMS President Ava Nasiri believes it’s about time that UBC tackled its lack of fitness facilities. 

“If [UBC] is going to be comparing themselves to other schools for this concept of excellence, then the fitness space they provide to students should also be held up to those quality standards,” said Nasiri. “As it stands, UBC is on the much lower end of the spectrum.”

When it comes to ranking universities by the square footage of fitness space per student, UBC lags far behind its peers Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria and the University of Toronto. 

UBC Campus and Community Planning

But the BirdCoop’s expansion into the old SUB is not a permanent solution according to Nasiri. The AMS is projecting the temporary setup to last six or seven years. This would ideally coincide with the opening of additional fitness facilities proposed in UBC’s athletics and recreation GamePlan strategy.

The GamePlan strategy is a 20-year plan proposing either extensive renovations or the complete rebuilding of Thunderbird Stadium (estimated to cost between $25 to $30 million), a brand new Athletics Centre of Excellence (estimated at $50 million) and a new facility to be built at where War Memorial Gym is currently located (estimated between $60 to $62 million).

The total cost of these projects ranges from a conservative estimate of $130 million to a high of $147 million.  

Kavie Toor, director of facilities and business development, says there are practical reasons for embarking on these projects, noting the old age of Thunderbird Stadium and War Memorial Gym (50 and 70 years old respectively) and the buildings having a high seismic risk.

Figuring out a way to fund these new facilities is one of the major challenges that Toor and his team are contending with. The potential revenue generated with new housing units to be built in the Stadium Road area can cover a large share of the cost, but it wouldn’t cover everything.

This is where the possibility of an AMS referendum for a fee increase to fund these projects comes into play. In order for this to happen, the AMS will first have to receive a petition with a thousand signatures in support of a referendum question that will ask students if they would be in favour of such an increase to fund new athletics facilities on campus. Toor and Nasiri are optimistic about UBC students’ support.

Nasiri said that having a referendum this year would be the right time.

“If we have this referendum this year, instead of next year or the year after, then we've made our voices heard loud and clear with enough time for that to have its due influence and to be taken seriously at the table,” said Nasiri.

UBC will be hosting a GamePlan workshop where students can attend to lend their voice on Tuesday, January 31, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will also be an online survey available and Nasiri encourages anyone who has specific feedback or concerns to email her directly.