Wilfrid Laurier and University of Waterloo to receive upgrades to their athletic facilities

The city of Waterloo has committed to a $5 million donation to split between both of the universities in the city, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, in order to upgrade their athletic facilities.

The University of Waterloo will be putting its half of the funding towards enhancing the Columbia Ice Field, a $23 million expansion, while Laurier’s complete reconstruction of the University Stadium will cost the school over $50 million.

“We’ve been waiting and preparing for about three years, for a call for infrastructure funding. There’s a current application called Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, it’s put out by the federal and provincial governments and would allow for 40 per cent funding from the federal government, 33.3 per cent from the province and then other which would be other partners, the university, stakeholders in the project,” said Peter Baxter, athletic director for Wilfrid Laurier University.

“We’re putting it all together with the advancement office, physical asset management on campus and so forth but we’ve been working on the vision for renewal because it’s a 61-year-old facility; construction was started in 1957, the first event was in 1958, it’s a fixer-upper.”

Renovations at Laurier in the department of athletics on the Waterloo campus have already totalled over $10 million including putting new turf on Alumni Field, upgrading the Athletic Complex, renovating the pool and putting new wood into the ageing University Stadium.

“We’ve consulted with a lot of stakeholders, most importantly the students, in terms of what they need that supports the programs and activities that they have. The field goes to maximum time until the light by-law makes us turn it off at 10:30, the support areas would include a double gym, as our intramurals are at full capacity,” Baxter said.

We’ve been working on the vision for renewal because it’s a 61-year-old facility; construction was started in 1957, the first event was in 1958, it’s a fixer-upper.

– Peter Baxter, athletic director for Wilfrid Laurier University

“It would add a lot of programming, the other component is to make it a destination beyond athletics and recreation. The wellness area that allows for promotion is by Veritas; it’s not the greatest space so we would create a wellness area for student leaders in health promotion and also utilize it for an Indigenous space like counselling with the Elders to give them something more private beyond the Lucinda House.”

Laurier’s Brantford campus has also seen a multi-million dollar renovation project in the Laurier Brantford YMCA, which opened in September of 2018.

The facility replaced the small Wilkes House Residence Recreation Centre that was previously the centre for student health and wellness.

“There’s not enough place to build community there, even in the CA we’ve put furniture to make a student space, we also want in conjunction with a wellness area a sports medicine clinic to serve beyond just the student-athletes, we would like it to be able to serve the entire student population,” Baxter said.

“An area for technology and training would be multipurpose, training for student leader staff in athletics, we run a lot of education programs, the team can use it for a film room, academic or wellness workshops can take place there, we’re trying to cater to the broad spectrum of students and what they would want.”

One of the main projects for the renovations is to put a protective bubble over the field in order to make it a twelve-month facility, not only to be utilized for athletics and recreation but can also be rented out for other community partners.

“There’s going to be such a vibrant opportunity for experiential learning that really enhances the student experience here at Laurier, it’s a community outreach school. It’s part of our DNA, our goal is for us to create something that will enhance that, we currently have 350 students that are involved,” Baxter said.

“The field itself will be fresh in order to attract major events it will be FIFA and Rugby Canada approved field so we can host local, national and international events, it will have a huge impact we know for hosting things for teams coming into the area, it will help in off time so that we can generate revenue, there’s an economic impact there.”

Laurier’s current field introduced a mobile video board last year. However, the plans for the renovation are to have a permanent board to use for in-game footage and replays as well as for movies or other events in the offseason.

There’s going to be such a vibrant opportunity for experiential learning that really enhances the student experience here at Laurier, it’s a community outreach school. It’s part of our DNA, our goal is for us to create something that will enhance that, we currently have 350 students that are involved.

– Peter Baxter, athletic director for Wilfrid Laurier University

“A video board is a big plus, this facility is more of a sport and entertainment sort of thing, we may have concerts but it’s up to the students. The students of 5-10 years ago have different interests and you have to adjust on that front,” Baxter said.

“It will provide a tight spectator experience too, which is important for what we have in terms of football, soccer and basketball; we don’t have many washrooms so we want to make sure that is proper, we’ll have more support area for storage, we need some heated areas, a proper press box which is a great leadership opportunity.”

Though on the surface it may seem that a $50 million stadium renovation seeks to support only student-athletes, that population is just a mere fraction of who the new centre targets. The vision for the new stadium can be accessible and enticing for every student on the Waterloo campus.

“Even from a broadcast component, streaming is important, not only from a revenue side from sponsors but I would like to host national championships where the Golden Hawks are winning USPORTS championships, we did host soccer when the facility was a bit more able, but the requirements for bidding are higher but there’s nothing better than hosting a national championship,” Baxter said.

“When you’re creating these types of facilities, it’s not all programmed. Something that gives an experience for them to have is the goal, even those viewing areas can be utilized for whatever the needs and wants of students are, when people look at athletic facilities they think of sports but it needs to be looked at as a student experience facility that encompasses not only recreation but the learning, cultural events and career type events too.”

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