The shooting range behind UFV’s Canada Education Park (CEP) campus was distracting, but after several years it looks like it may be replaced. The Student Union Society (SUS) announced that it, along with Athletics and Student Life, is looking into opening a recreational centre at the Chilliwack CEP campus as part of its UPass program.
“The gun range [space] will be transferring to university space, and the plan is that it will be developed into a rec centre,” SUS president Thomas Davies explained.
SUS’s UPass program currently includes access to community recreation centres in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Mission, but there has never been a precedent for using funds designated for the UPass to UFV capital development projects, which this would be. In March 2012, a referendum with a similar but more general aim was held jointly by SUS and UFV Athletics, which asked:
“Do you support a student fee rated at three per cent of tuition [then, about $72], the proceeds of which will be earmarked for the sustainability of UFV varsity athletics, and the development of Intramural, Recreation, and Health & Wellness programs on campus?”
In 2012, the rationale associated with the proposed student fee was along similar lines to today. UFV’s communications administrator in 2012, Jhim Burwell, told The Cascade, “The reason [the proposed fee] is being brought through SUS is that the Ministry of Education has put a hiatus on universities creating new fees” (“Supporting UFV athletics could get costly” by Sean Evans in print March 14, 2012). This week, Davies also referred budget cuts and tuition caps resulting in the university’s inability to create new services as a factor in SUS’s decision to contribute to the project. That said, the university is at least partially able to contribute, as part of the project will be funded by UFV’s innovation fund.
Although the 2012 referendum passed, no action was taken due to a technicality, but the proposal’s existence in the first place points to a distinction between community recreation centre access and developing UFV recreational offerings, or, in the current case, spaces.
However, Davies says the creation of a new recreation centre at CEP could fit with the UPass program. When asked whether SUS would need to ask students before using funds from the UPass fee for this purpose, he said the answer was no.
“It’s within the scope of the UPass program and it doesn’t result in any change of fees, so it’s within the scope of what our board has the authority to determine,” Davies said. In response to a question asking whether the costs of the centre should be UFV’s responsibility, he noted that while SUS would like the university to be able to support such projects on its own, he felt it fit within the kinds of initiatives a student union should be involved in.
“We’re already involved in delivering recreation services in all of our local communities that the university resides [in], and we’re just kind of adjusting how that happens,” Davies said.
As a smaller campus, the Chilliwack CEP campus is not the usual location for SUS projects, but Davies sees the rec centre as something that the campus needs.
“Abbotsford already has some recreation capacity,” he said. “Do we want to see that increase long term? Absolutely. But right now, Chilliwack is where on-campus facilities and activities are lacking.”
Davies also noted that the rec centre would work as a tool to improve student engagement.
“We want to keep students on the campus and draw students back to campus as much as possible, and build a university community,” he said.
But student engagement isn’t always easy to foster; Campus Recreation recently had to cancel many of its fitness classes at the CEP campus due to low attendance.
“They worked with some large plans in 2014, and tried to run some classes as well, and they didn’t work for various reasons,” Davies explained. “But what they tried this year seemed to be the same thing that they tried last year, so it’s not particularly shocking that things didn’t change if there was no change of plans.”
Davies explained that what SUS is planning for the rec centre will be different from Campus Recreation’s efforts, and will hopefully yield better results.
“What we’re doing is completely changeable,” he said. “It’ll be a completely different style. It won’t just be, ‘We have a classroom, let’s do yoga.’ I’m not saying that shouldn’t happen, but it’ll be a much more big [sic] picture than that.”
While SUS is not yet sure exactly what facilities the rec centre will have, some of their ideas include a climbing wall, a turf field, a soccer and field-hockey field, an indoor gym, and a fitness centre.
“There’s so many things that we can do, and we’re not just limited to a bit of classroom space to try and do something in,” added Davies.
Although SUS’s UPass program already provides students with access to multiple recreational facilities in the Chilliwack area, Davies noted that SUS is not planning to discontinue those services.
“We want to ensure that there still are a variety of services that are available,” he said. “Exactly what it’s going to look like with Chilliwack municipal services, [we’re] not one hundred percent sure yet, but we’re looking at a diversity of offerings for students in Chilliwack.”
The program will also come at no current extra cost or fee increase to students, but it is not clear whether there will be effects on UPass-related offerings or if the UPass fee will be subject to future referenda.
“What we would be doing is redirecting some of those funds that already exist into this opportunity,” Davies said. “Because we would be using some of our UPass funding for that, it would be included as part of the UPass programming, so any students who have paid for the UPass would be able to access these spaces and use whatever it may be.”
Although SUS has begun the planning process, the rec centre won’t open until at least fall of next year.
“We’re currently in the stage of working with the consultants hired by UFV’s innovation fund,” explained Davies. “If it all goes ahead, we’ll be looking at opening first stage in September 2016.”
With files from Valerie Franklin.