MISSING: New Athletic Facility

LU students in the dark after voting in favour of new building

By: Derek Patterson, Sports & Recreation Editor

It has been eights months since the students of the Thunder Bay campus voted in favour of a brand new athletics facility. Students were overwhelmingly vocal about their positions and there were good showings at the polls, with over 30% of eligible voters casting their ballots. Just under 80% of voters were in favour of the development of a new 30,000 square foot athletic facility at the cost of a $49.50 increase per semester. However, since voting day, there has been very little said about the development or timeline of this new facility.

The Argus spoke to a member of the LU Varsity Council, who prefers to remain anonymous, about the facility: “Nothing is going happen this winter, that’s for sure…[it would] increase the cost because we need to heat up the building if we want to build during the winter…[they] said that the plan is to start by July and open it not September 2019, but September 2020.”

While there were no definitive promises as to what this building would entail or look like, various components of the facility were discussed by Lakehead Athletics and students who campaigned for the new facility’s creation. The proposed new facility would feature a new multi-purpose gymnasium, a modern weightlifting space, student study areas, a market, a pharmacy and would house a newly updated sports medicine clinic.

The Varsity Council member also noted there are plans to incorporate resources “linked to mental health and health in general, like psychologists.”

The new facility would allow better access for students and varsity athletes, as the two groups are often vying for the same space. This issue has compounded more and more over the last few years, as public interest in our facilities has increased since the collapse of the Sports Dome in November 2016. In fact, the Varsity Council member said there are plans for separate student and public entrances: “they wanted to separate that, because for students you [would] put your card in… there’s going to be an automatic entrance, and for the public it’s [going to be] different.”

The creation of this new facility was to mark a radical shift in the University’s philosophy on athletics. Tom Warden, Director of Athletics told TBNewswatch in March: “I think now we’re a good place to work out and we provide a lot of programming opportunities for our students, but I think moving forward we will become a space for wellness, a space where people can relax, a space where people can study, as well as work out, as well as find areas where they can meditate, areas where they can be alone, areas where they can be with their friends.”

Throughout the campaign, students often heard: once the snow melts, shovels will be in the ground! That time has come (the snow has returned) and students are yet to hear any updates from LUSU or the Athletics Department about the facility. This is prompting numerous Lakehead students and faculty to verbally express their frustrations.

A student who prefers to remain anonymous told The Argus: “I don’t want the University to rush this facility because that would be a waste of time, money and resources and would only end up hurting the students. This being said, I would like an update even if it [the facility] is being delayed.”

The Varsity Council member noted that Warden had a meeting regarding the facility on November 29th, and that some minor changes to these plans may occur. Hopefully Lakehead students will not be in the dark much longer.

Director of Athletics, Tom Warden did not return The Argus’ request for comment.