By Jessica Robinson, Staff Reporter
Ice hockey, curling, broom-ball, and ringette players alike within the Laurentian community might just have something new to look forward to in upcoming years: the next phase of the campus modernization project is being put into motion, and it’s beginning to look a lot like an on-campus arena.
The Laurentian Director of Athletics and Recreation, Peter Hellstrom, acknowledged that, “while there is no confirmation of any arena going up, we are doing a study, a market research study with a consultant, to see if it’s viable for a third party to potentially build a rink on our campus.”
Brad Parkes, the Executive Director of Facilities at Laurentian, verified that the Pricewaterhouse Coopers Real Estate company was hired to conduct the study, selected through a request for proposal process from among eight other competing companies.
The company has been hired to consult and determine whether or not the project is feasible.
The model being looked into is a public-private partnership, which means that a third party will bid on the purchase of the arena, which will then be built on campus grounds. “Whoever bids on this is going to design, finance, build, operate and manage (the arena). It’s going to be their rink,” explained Hellstrom, although he was quick to add, “we’re going to make sure LU students are taken care of.”
According to Brad Parkes, the draw of this type of partnership is that Laurentian won’t have to come up with the capital to construct the building.
He highlighted that this arrangement is common practice in municipalities across Ottawa, Brampton, Mississauga, London, and in Western Canada.
“[It keeps] the municipality from having to come up with 30 or 40 million dollars in capital.”
Parkes cited the men and women’s varsity hockey teams, both of which were newly reinstated and introduced to Laurentian respectively in 2013, as motivation behind moving the arena project forward, although Hellstrom insists that the varsity teams are just one piece of the puzzle.
“As your director of athletics and rec here, my responsibility is to reach out to all the student groups and make sure their ability to access great recreational and sport facilities is here. And not only facilities, but programming goes hand in hand with facilities. On the student life side, I look at it as such a growth for our campus on intramural hockey, pick up hockey for the students, [and for] the international population that’s growing here at LU, introduction to ice sports. The bottom line is, this is about student life on our campus,” Hellstrom emphasized. “Varsity is one component of many components of student life.”
In order to incorporate all of these aspects of student life, the Hellstrom says the athletics department will be working with the consultant in the coming months to conduct focus groups with different target demographics, to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and accounted for as the project moves forward.
All parties involved are quick to agree that the project is in very early stages of development.
“We’ve only had two meetings, so we’re still in the reconnaissance stage, just getting all of our information together to give to the consultant. It’s very preliminary in the process yet,” Parkes stated.
“If everything goes well, we’re hoping to have all of our research done with the consultant by May, and have something to the board by then,” added Hellstrom, optimistic about the plan unfolding.
“At the end of the day, I think everyone has to understand that we are going to work for what’s best for the entire campus on this project.”