Shortlist options solidified for huge athletic facilities overhaul

On Tuesday night, UBC Campus and Community Planning hosted a second GamePlan workshop, a public consultation on their long-term strategy for future investment in athletics and recreation facilities on campus.

GamePlan aims to address four primary needs that have been identified: a fitness space, an additional gymnasium space (the Student Recreational Centre is at capacity), the replacement of aging infrastructure (the War Memorial Gym was built in 1951) and additional support facilities.

“We benchmark all decisions on our principles — layering on consultation, layering on financials, layering on technicalities. The voice of students, faculty, alumni and varsity athletes has helped narrow down the options,” said Dan Cooper, the senior manager of facilities.

Reshaped by feedback from the first workshop in October, a shortlist of options was presented to a mixture of students, varsity athletes and community members at the workshop. The options were divided into three plans for development — a new War Memorial Gym for fitness and recreation, a new Thunderbird Stadium for football spectators and a UBC Athletics Centre of Excellence.

War Memorial Gym rebuild

To meet the fitness and recreation needs of the student body, the War Memorial Gymnasium will be revived with three gym courts, a massive fitness space and additional support facilities. UBC Planning originally listed three options for the redevelopment of War Memorial Gym — a renovation of the existing facility, a partial rebuild or a full rebuild. As a result of public consultation in October, two additional options for a full rebuild were assembled.

UBC Planning

Currently situated in the War Memorial Gym, the UBC School of Kinesiology will need to be considered in the GamePlan due to “a need to replace any displaced facilities.” A decision to rebuild War Memorial Gym could hasten the discussion around kinesiology’s so-far unsuccessful attempt at securing a new faculty building.

Thunderbird Stadium flip

Football fans should be excited for the potential of a new Thunderbird Stadium. Two options were outlined for feedback in the public consultation — rebuilding the stadium where it currently is or moving it to the neighbouring Whit Matthews Field. Leaving the stadium in its current location would retain the ambiance of the natural amphitheatre. Moving or “flipping” the stadium to Whit Matthews field would better consolidate the UBC Athletics spectator hub, where the rugby, baseball and soccer fields are located. The flip would also consolidate the housing project planned for Whit Matthews Field with the neighbouring residential community.

Shortlist of spectator hub options.
Shortlist of spectator hub options. UBC Planning

Currently in the third phase of strategy development, GamePlan is looking for funding from various outlets. 

“The inclusion of a residential development in the Thunderbird Stadium flip was a financial decision,” said Cooper. GamePlan has been unsuccessful in applications for grant funding. An AMS fee increase referendum on the upcoming election ballot is another funding option.

UBC Athletics Centre of Excellence

“Where the Centre of Excellence lands [and] bridges the gap is a good place to start the discussion,” said UBC Development Services director of planning Grant Miller. The centre will include a spectator gym to showcase the talent of varsity basketball and volleyball. UBC Planning outlined three possible locations for the centre — in the full rebuild of War Memorial Gym, in the tennis bubble or alongside the football stadium.

Each placement has its own virtues. Placing the centre in the tennis bubble, alongside Doug Mitchell Arena and Thunderbird Parkade, is the most accessible option for spectators and athletics faculty. Integrating the centre into the War Memorial Gym would bring varsity athletics closer to student recreation. In contrast, building the centre alongside the football stadium would be shipping the facility to an inaccessible corner of campus.

General consensus — or lack of

“We are not quite there yet in terms of a final option,” said Cooper. “There is definitely no clear winner [but] some options are starting to float to the top.” 

He noted that the popular opinion received from UBC Planning at the public consultations was to flip Thunderbird Stadium onto Whit Matthews field and locate the Centre of Excellence in a full rebuild of the War Memorial Gymnasium.

In the meantime, students can look forward to a fitness space opening in January 2018 in the Old SUB basement. The interim fitness space will be converted into a space for recreation and sports clubs when the War Memorial rebuild is complete.