The University of British Columbia is exploring a number of options to renew and expand its student recreational facilities, and this includes a complete renovation or rebuild of War Memorial Gymnasium.
Built shortly after the Second World War, the 65-year-old gymnasium was dedicated to those who lost their lives fighting both World Wars and their families. The venue has a capacity for 2,862 seats, including 2,222 permanent seats in the balcony and 600 temporary seats on the floor that retract from the sides.
Planners with the institution are contemplating moving forward with a strategy to create two new sports hubs on campus – a spectator hub at Thunderbird Park and a recreational hub around War Memorial Gymnasium.
Aside from the issue that both facilities are nearing the end of the their lifespans, there is a severe shortage of recreational space for students on campus.
UBC says it has 0.15 square feet in recreational floor area per student, compared to University of Toronto’s St. George Campus’ 0.42 square feet, Simon Fraser University’s 0.47 square feet, Western Ontario’s 0.65 square feet, Queen’s University 0.95 square feet, and University of Victoria’s 1.08 square feet.
“The strategy is looking to address a number of needs. There is a real shortage of student recreation space on campus,” Michael White, Associate Vice-President of Campus and Community Planning, told Daily Hive. “Comparing to other universities we are grossly deficient in recreation space for students. We are looking at opportunities to address that through this strategy process and a lot of that has to do with War Memorial Gym and the provision of recreation space for students across the campus.
“The second is that War Memorial Gym and Thunderbird Stadium are nearing the end of their life cycles and they are going to need investment regardless because they are coming to the end of their life cycles.”
If the War Memorial Gymnasium is converted for recreational uses only, competition events such as basketball and volleyball and concerts would be relocated to the new Athletics Centre of Excellence, which could be built at a new facility on Thunderbird Field or integrated into the new outdoor stadium.
Here are the three recreational conversion options being considered:
Basic renovation of existing War Memorial Gymnasium
The existing historic facility would be renovated and 2,222 permanent seats on the balcony level would be removed to create new space for recreational courts. As there is insufficient space within the gymnasium structure, the basement in the future UBC Life Building at the old Student Union Building could be utilized as new fitness space.
As well, the future Gateway North development to the east of the gymnasium could also contain supplementary fitness space within its ground floor.
The cost for this option has been pegged at up to $57 million, including $35 million for the gymnasium renovation, $5 million for the renovation of the Student Union Building basement into fitness space, and $17 million for the the Gateway North ground level fitness space.
Estimated cost: Up to $57 million, including $35 million for the gymnasium renovation, $5 million for the renovation of the Student Union Building basement, and $17 million for the the Gateway North ground level fitness space.
Full renovation of existing War Memorial Gymnasium
A full renovation entails the above-mentioned basic renovation and removal of the balcony seats. The most significant difference entails replacing and raising the gym floor to build fitness space in the new basement level, however, it would reduce the main gym level ceiling height to just 29 feet.
This option also utilizes the basement level of the future UBC Life Building and ground level of the future Gateway North development for additional fitness space.
Estimated cost: The total cost is $60 million.
New replacement for War Memorial Gymnasium
The gymnasium would be demolished and replaced with a new multi-level, multi-purpose facility for recreational uses. In addition to the new gym, all non-athletic academic users will be relocated to the ground level fitness facility at the future Gateway North development and the basement of the future UBC Life Building would also consist of recreational uses.
Estimated cost: $65 million.
The public consultation phase for the sports hub project will take place throughout the month. Public open houses are scheduled for:
- Tuesday, October 11 at The Nest from 11:30 am to 1 pm
- Thursday, October 13 at Wesbrook Community Centre from 4:30 to 7 pm
- Monday, October 17 at UBC Nest Student Union Building from 11:30 am to 1 pm
- Wednesday, October 19 at UBC Forest Sciences Centre from 4:30 to 6:30 pm.