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Concordians dive into the ether

by Leita Boucicaut December 6, 2011

Ride the shuttle bus from downtown Montreal to Concordia’s Loyola campus and the great white bubble of the winter sports dome will crowd the landscape. Nestled beside it is the state-of-the-art PERFORM Centre, an athletic therapy centre and gym all rolled up into one sleek and modern building.

Take a look at the facade of the building and you will find artwork by former Concordia student and world-renowned artist Adad Hannah adorning the windows. His art called “Leap” depicts people in varying states of exercise. All six of the larger images show people in preparation for an action. The last image shows a man in a full diagonal position, arms outstretched. To many, there is little doubt about what this man is doing.

“It makes me think of diving,” said Brittany Grbac, a Concordia student.”I think of bouncing off a diving board.”

Here lies the problem. Most people will look at the imagery on the building and assume that inside is a brand new pool. They would be dead wrong.

To date, Concordia is the only one of the four major universities in Montreal (i.e. McGill, UQAM and Université de Montréal) that does not have a pool. To those who don’t enjoy swimming, it may not be a serious issue. But for a university that consistently strives to innovate, one would expect such a university to have the basics, namely a pool.

The director of the athletics and recreation department, Katie Sheahan, was on the defensive when asked about the distinct absence of a pool. Proud of the PERFORM Centre and what Concordia has managed to accomplish in the athletics arena, she does not understand why students would be upset by the suggestive images on the facade of the building.

“I think it’s unrealistic to say that because the design of the building looks like a pool that there has been the promise of something that hasn’t been delivered,” she said. “No one has ever said that there was a construction of a pool.”

True. There have been no official statements as to the actual building of the pool, but in 2008 The Concordia Journal published an article stating the university would have an athletic overhaul. Among the changes to Concordia’s Loyola campus would be the construction of a dome, permanent stands to house spectators and a 25-metre pool to service students. All of those plans have been realized; except for the pool, of course.

Rather than build a pool, Concordia was granted a budget to build the PERFORM Centre, which was not part of the initial plans for expansion. Granted, the centre is indeed a state-of-the-art conditioning centre. All the machinery is new and the building even houses a small therapy pool dedicated to people with chronic or sports-related injuries. But the end result is that students were denied the rights that any decent university should provide: a well-rounded athletics centre, which should undoubtedly include a pool.

Today, Concordia has no budget for a pool and it is unknown when it will be built. As Sheahan mentioned, politics are involved in making this project a reality.

“There is absolutely no funding envelope in the government that I’m aware of and certainly not in this community because a brand new pool was opened in the community in January,”she said. “It’s important for students to understand that these things don’t happen in a vacuum and Concordia is not the only organization on the island of Montreal that is competing for funding.”

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