Anyone who’s set foot on the UVic campus this term has most likely noticed the major construction project behind the McKinnon Gym. Though it may not look like much at the moment, aside from an obstacle to those who used to cut through to class on Gabriola Road, this northern area of campus is slowly being transformed into the Centre for Athletics, Recreation, and Special Abilities, which UVic hopes will establish itself as one of the premier training and rehabilitation centres in the country.
CARSA is being billed as a potential world-class stage that will allow UVic and the community to undertake a variety of athletic pursuits. Some of the highlights will include a new weight and fitness centre, rowing complex, and a climbing wall. Specific training areas for all varsity sports and a number of non-varsity sports will also be offered.
The crown jewel of the complex looks to be the new basketball court, which will be designed to NBA-specifications and be able to seat over 2 000 fans. These features will provide athletes and students with a CIS game-day experience that should prove comparable to those enjoyed by our neighbours to the south in the NCAA.
Throughout its development, the CARSA team has worked to stress that the centre will serve not merely as a shrine to student athletes, but also as a valuable service to the community as a whole. CARSA aims to offer the same features one would find at a community centre, including camps as well as fitness and recreation classes. CARSA will also become the new hub for UVic’s intramurals, where new facilities should allow the already popular program to expand further.
One of the most intriguing aspects of CARSA is the new home for CanAssist, which is devoted to improving the lives of those living with disabilities. Features include research facilities to develop new technologies, as well as specifically designed training areas that will open up exercise options to all members of the community.
CARSA will also allow the School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education to consolidate its studies and offices in one building.
The CARSA project’s development process, however, was criticized as less than transparent by community members, while others have been concerned that the parkade could be an eyesore.
Certainly one of the major concerns is whether it is fair to put some of the financial burden for the 77-million-dollar complex on current UVic students. CARSA construction is not set to finish until 2015, by which time many students that are learning within the university budgets that fund CARSA construction will have moved on.
Despite this, the facility should still be one UVic students can get behind. Alumni who reside in the Victoria area will be able to use the facility for its recreational opportunities when it’s operational. The CanAssist program will contribute to the betterment of society. Finally, the ability to draw in student athletes and high-profile sporting events will contribute to the reputation of UVic and success of its students well into the future. This is something all proud alumni, sports-oriented or not, will be able to support, as CARSA establishes itself and UVic as a nation-leading destination for sport, recreation and life-improving programs.