How is the Concordia sports complex different than other gyms available around town?
The classic distinction about university recreational departments and community ones is mainly that the university is member of the Canadian Interuniversity Sports organization (CIS). The community-based recreational centers, such as the YMCA, either have exclusively recreational programs or if they have a competitive dimension to their programs, it’ll be expressed through “civil leagues”, while we have total domain on what we offer, when it comes to competitive sports; we’re bound by CIS.
There’s quite a diversity in your programs, from football to tango. How do you choose what activities to pursue?
There’s many ways a new activity comes about. Usually we’re trying to tap into trends or we respond to the interest expressed by the student community. There’s three ways mainly this works for recreational activities. First it can be interest-based, meaning students will come to us with an idea or a request. Second, is facility-based, for example if we have an arena, we’ll be able to offer hockey. And third is competence-based, when the one of the staff members has really great skills or a big passion for a discipline, we can implement it and see how students like it. For the competitive ones, we mainly look at the facilities we have and fund the sports that compete nationally and in the CIS.
Now why was there a center opened downtown recently? Was it to make it more accessible to students or to offer programs that were different?
A little bit of both. The downtown fitness center was originally supposed to go into the JMSB building, but then it got moved to its actual location instead. The activities are very different and that’s because of the space. The way the space is divided is a 10,000 square feet area for workout and four studios. At Loyola, in contrast, we have two outdoor playing fields, one arena and a gymnasium. But the facilities and the layout really play to our strength, because both centers really complement each other nicely.
Of course, most varsity sports require some specialized facilities which is why you find most of them at Loyola, but there’s all sorts of other activities like tai-chi and swing dancing which can be found at different levels in the sports centers. And the fact there is a center downtown makes a lot of sense considering the ratio of students we’ve got at Loyola opposed to Sir George Williams is about 20:80.
Regarding the new building the athletics department plans on building, how will it be different from what is currently available?
Well it’s nothing truly new in the sense we’ve been aiming at enlarging our sports facilities for a while now. We started in 2003 when we opened the two new fields at Loyola. Then in 2006-2007, we have built the new downtown fitness center, and we’re now looking at expanding the facilities at Loyola. We’d like to have a triple gymnasium, another fitness center like the one downtown, a 25-meter pool, permanent stands for outdoor fields, and something quite revolutionary: a winter dome, which is a device to put a roof out to cover the outdoor field. No other university has a winter dome yet, so we would be the first. And of course, we would like to undertake important renovations to the arena.
These sure are impressive additions to our university’s athletics department, but it must cost quite a lot. Is it really necessary? What prompted the departments to decide to build larger facilities and expand?
There was increase in demand for one thing, but really it is basic university standards that go with the promotion of good physical health and physical education. As a university, we have to be involved in the local, with the surrounding neighborhood. We’re already welcoming people that live nearby and neighboring schools to use our facilities like our fields, our arena and our gym. University has had this pivotal role throughout history and I believe Concordia University is well suited and well-positioned for such an initiative.
So are these additions going to provide the possibility for a more diversified range of activities or will it enable us to have more teams of the sports we already offer? And how will you deal with this expansion?
Of course we will be able to diversify even more our activities. The project itself will happen in phases, it won’t be all at once, so we will have time to adjust, but certainly we will need to hire new staff. We have to make some balance between the regular staff that is full-time often at Loyola and the staff downtown. We plan to have the staff grow proportionally and we intent to invite students to help out. At this moment, 60 per cent of the staff downtown are current students in our university and the balance are almost all recent graduates. Student employment has always been an important part of our department; it makes up a huge part of staffing in the Recreations and Athletics department.