The next era in athletics begins at the University of Victoria today as the doors open to the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities.
At 190,000 square feet, and with a $77-million price tag, CARSA is a big leap forward for the university and athletic community.
“I’m feeling a lot of excitement, we’re so pleased to be opening the doors to the community with a open house activities,” said Clint Hamilton, UVic’s director of athletics and recreation who was a driving force to make the project happen.
Tours of the facilities run every 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with free access to the fitness weight centre and field house.
“CARSA will be a great benefit to the community and we’re excited to welcome people to the project,” Hamilton said.
CARSA’s list of offerings is a long one, from the state-of-the-art Ken & Kathy Shields, which will seat 2,100 fans, to the rowing ergometer centre, and of course, the 16-meter Peninsula Co-op Climbing Centre rock climbing wall and bouldering area.
The journey to opening the world-class facility has been a long road for UVic, though it wasn’t particularly controversial, at least once the back-and-forth with Saanich council and Cadboro Bay residents was settled. UVic has so far managed to raise the cost of the facility without government money, through its own means as well as parking revenues, membership fees, donors and sponsors.
Donations are still coming in. Earlier this year, UVic ventured into new territory by selling the naming rights to the rock climbing wall, with Peninsula Co-Op stepping up, just as the company did with the Victoria Highlanders and the track project at the Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence (PISE). The dollar amount for the climbing wall sponsorship was not released.
“As part of the fundraising efforts, there’s been the opportunity for sponsorship naming at a number levels at CARSA,” Hamilton said.
The performance gym, for example, could bear a corporate title by the time Vikes basketball teams take the floor for Canada West play in the fall. Inside the performance gym is Ken and Kathy Shields Court which, however, remains off limits.
The university also remains open to a sponsor title at the highest level, but only if its the right fit, and nothing is in the works, Hamilton said.
And while one door opens, another closes, as most of the Ian Stewart Complex is being decommissioned today, including the weight training area, squash courts, dance studio and the outdoor pool. The Ian Stewart Complex’s ice rink and tennis and volleyball courts will continue, though there is no saying what will become of the decommissioned space.
“UVic will retain decommissioned parts of the Ian Stewart Complex, I’m not sure what will become of those areas, it’s out of (the athletics and recreation department’s) hands,” Hamilton said.
Regular users of the outdoor pool saw the writing on the wall and gathered for one last splash back in October. They were right.
UVic recently announced the outdoor pool would not reopen, citing annual costs of $321,000 to operate for five months. In 2014 it generated less than $30,000 in revenue. They also said it will cost an extra $445,000 to address deferred and routine maintenance to keep the pool running for another five years.
CARSA does have a Phase 2 plan, which would include a new indoor pool.
There’s no timeline for Phase 2 as of yet, Hamilton said, as the McKinnon pool is in decent shape. The rest of the McKinnon building is about to undergo a series of renovations, and is being repurposed for the UVic School of Exercise Science.
“The pool, gym and weight room in McKinnon will remain in use by the athletics and recreation, we need it to meet the capacity of our recreational demand,” Hamilton said. “They’ll take over many of the office and training spaces.”
CARSA begins normal operations on Monday (May 4). Users will require memberships to access the climbing wall and fitness and weight areas, which are distributed across two levels.
CanAssist also finds a home in CARSA, where the new space includes a machine shop where its researchers and technicians can develop technologies and programs that help people with disabilities improve their quality of life.