Although workers broke ground several months back, construction has now officially begun on the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA). UVic hosted an event May 28 in parking Lot 2, across Gabriola Road from the construction site, to unveil a plaque and present speeches from and photo ops with supporters of the new facilities.
Distinguished Vikes basketball alumna Debbie Yeboah recalled the many campus construction and renovation projects she’s witnessed in her time at UVic. “There’s always an air of excitement around students when something new is happening on campus,” said Yeboah, particularly surrounding the creation of the First Peoples’ House. “It was amazing to have seen that plot of land and collection of wood and stones turn into the beautiful building that it is now. I take pride in being part of the student body that saw that building built.”
Students for the next two years may count themselves among those who watched CARSA’s development, as can all who’ve closely monitored the community consultation process for the facility since 2009. Some controversy surrounded UVic’s applications to the District of Saanich for parking and height bylaw variances in relation to CARSA. In 2011, UVic hired consultation firm HB Lanarc–Golder to design a framework for engagement with shareholders and concerned community members and now has a plan for how to facilitate consultation in future endeavours. The May 28 construction kickoff signifies a resolution and moving forward for the CARSA project.
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard pointed out that, while CARSA is in Saanich, the campus map straddles both Oak Bay and Saanich. “This university literally does cross borders,” said Leonard, “but in terms of significance, it crosses borders throughout the region, throughout our province, the country and the world.” He highlighted UVic’s importance, as an international university, to the regional economy and called CARSA another point of celebration for UVic’s many friends.
Construction was originally slated to begin November 2011 for a fall 2013 opening. CARSA is now expected to open in spring 2015 and provide new labs, offices and a machine shop for CanAssist. CanAssist invents and builds modern day technologies for people with disabilities. On the athletics horizon, CARSA will bring a climbing tower, 50-metre training pool, indoor field house, a proposed High Performance Rugby Academy and new versions of facilities currently housed in the Ian Stuart Complex (ISC) and McKinnon building — performance gym, weight training, rowing, dance, yoga and squash. ISC and McKinnon will be freed up to enhance UVic’s service capacity for many purposes.
Lara Lauzon of UVic’s school of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education said CARSA will further integration of healthy lifestyle awareness and practices on campus and in the greater community by not only supporting varsity excellence but also providing more intramural and outside community access.
The momentum of campus expansion seems to be carrying through, as Campus Planning and Sustainability made a presentation at the UVic Students’ Society Board of Directors meeting on May 13 to begin consultation on increasing transit capacity on campus. The student board then voted in favour of officially supporting an option that would include a new bus loop adjacent to the Student Union Building. These developments are, however, in very early stages.