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New recreation centre for Chilliwack campus in planning stage

Following the approval of federal funding for a new indoor firing range for the RCMP, UFV is considering what to do with the now-vacated space. Hoping for an influx of feedback, the athletics department asked for students to participate in an online survey, which received over 400 responses. The survey included questions about student fitness, activities at the CEP campus, and potential features of the recreation centre.

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By Vanessa Broadbent and Michael Scoular (The Cascade) – Email

Photo Credit Mitch Huttema

Plans for a recreation centre at the Chilliwack CEP campus are in development following a student survey conducted online.

“What we wanted to do was make sure that we talked to all the stakeholders, starting with the students who spend a lot of time on that campus, to really understand what the options are,” says Steve Tuckwood, the director of athletics and campus recreation.

Following the approval of federal funding for a new indoor firing range for the RCMP, UFV is considering what to do with the now-vacated space. Hoping for an influx of feedback, the athletics department asked for students to participate in an online survey, which received over 400 responses. The survey included questions about student fitness, activities at the CEP campus, and potential features of the recreation centre.

One question asked students to consider their preferred choices from among a list of options, saying, “Findings … will be used to further explore these potential options.” The 10 options included larger space-filling additions (running track, rock climbing, “gymnasium-type space,” turf, archery range, a staging area for water sports), common uses already available in Abbotsford (weight, fitness, and multi-purpose rooms), as well as study or lounge space for students.

Though the firing range will require retrofitting to house any of those larger components, those last options could be well-suited to the building’s current set-up. “There’s a small building that’s right beside the former firing range, and it was actually used by the RCMP as a classroom and some office space,” he says. “What’s nice is that it’s an indoor space … if you need classroom space, washrooms, showers, offices, they’re all right there.”

Tuckwood hopes that the survey will provide the athletics department, as well as RC Strategies, an Edmonton-based community development company they’ve partnered with, with a sense of what students hope to see in the centre.

Currently, CEP is driving distance away from larger amenities, including food, drink, and activities like the ones the recreation centre would potentially bring to the campus.

So for Tuckwood, the rec centre is part of a larger plan for recreation at the CEP campus, which might include attempts to connect it in a larger way to its surroundings, such as the nearby Rotary Trail.

“I’m sort of of the belief that anything is an improvement — we really don’t have a presence there from a recreational standpoint,” Tuckwood says. “It’ll take a while to build, undoubtedly, but I think it [would be] better than what we’ve been able to offer so far.”

“I don’t have any delusions of grandeur that this thing is going to turn into some hub of activity in a short period of time,” he adds. “I think over time it will build and that, to me, I think is a positive thing for the university and for the student body.”

The current goal is for the recreation centre to open without any new fees to students, but the major undecided part of the change at this point is funding — UFV doesn’t have additional resources to dedicate to this project. When The Cascade reported on this project last December, it was presented as the work of the Student Union Society (SUS), with Student Life and Athletics assisting. Now, the SUS is mainly involved as a funding source through the already-existing U-Pass program.

“It would be included as part of the U-Pass programming,” says SUS president Thomas Davies. “Any student who has paid for the U-Pass would be able to access [the centre].”

The second section of the student survey asked specifically about U-Pass usage, asking both where students currently use their card and to what degree they feel their needs are met by the current discounts available through the card — currently, the U-Pass gives students free access to the Abbotsford, Cheam, Chilliwack, Matsqui, and Mission recreation and leisure centres.

“What we would be doing is redirecting some of those funds that already exist into this opportunity,” Davies says, who adds that there would be no change to the semesterly U-Pass fee.

For now, details are not yet finalized, including the date of the centre’s opening. When SUS was heading the project, Davies cited the Fall 2016 semester as a goal, but Tuckwood says there’s no certain date until more planning has happened.

“[RC Strategies] is coming back on campus in early March to do some follow-up focus group meetings with some students, as well as some other stakeholder groups,” he says. “And then the expectation is we’ll have a report from them about all of the components probably in April sometime.”

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