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Lakehead University Magazine Fall/Winter 2007


Whither the Lakehead Pool?

In 2006-2007, Lakehead University's Board of Governors authorized administration to examine issues surrounding the potential renovation and re-allocation of space within the C.J. Sanders Fieldhouse.

The essence of a proposal by the Department of Athletics is to reconfigure the space and close the pool to create a service and retail mall that would offer a mix of university and private sector services, including the Alumni Bookstore, food stores, restaurants, coffee shops, clothing stores, and banking services. The service/retail mall would provide enhanced services for the entire Lakehead University community and would create the revenue stream necessary to pay for modernizing the building. Renovating the building would give Lakehead the opportunity to improve the programming space for athletics as well as recreational programs, create additional lecture areas and laboratories, and enhance building security.

Eleanor Abaya, Lakeheadís Director of Communications, met with Tom Warden, Lakeheadís Director of Athletics, to discuss the proposal. The following is an excerpt of their conversation.

Eleanor Abaya: In a nutshell, what is the challenge facing Lakehead University and the Department of Athletics?

Tom Warden: Deferred maintenance. The C.J. Sanders Fieldhouse is approximately 35 years old. And although it has served us well and we have done a good job of maintaining it, there is a point in time when a university needs to assess its facilities to determine if a particular facility is still meeting the needs for which it was originally intended, at a cost that is acceptable under the current circumstances. The time has come to do that for the facility. This assessment will include research into the cost of maintaining the current uses, as well as the feasibility of alternative uses that may include revenue-generating opportunities and extensive renovations to the facility.

We need to decide on a solution that will benefit the greatest number of students and other stakeholders in the most comprehensive way. What solution will benefit the most stakeholders? That is the question we need to answer before we make a decision on this issue.

Abaya: What are the advantages and disadvantages of re-allocating space within the Fieldhouse to create a service/retail space?

Warden: The main advantage of this proposal is that by creating a service/retail space, Lakehead could afford to retrofit the entire building. This would mean having new athletics programming and additional academic and office space to address the current space shortage; a new entrance with better security and admissions controls; an accessible university bookstore; and the convenience of having more services on campus under one roof. The main disadvantage is that we would lose our pool. However, I must point out that by our calculations, the pool is not widely used by members of the Lakehead community or the public.

Abaya: Regardless of whether the pool is widely used or not as you claim, isnít the pool providing an invaluable service to the community as it stands, and should we not, therefore, keep it?

Warden: Under ideal circumstances it would be a sound approach to provide a service that does not pay for itself especially if it supports the Universityís outreach objectives within the internal and external communities. The harsh reality, however, is we cannot afford to do so. First, the usage level is much lower than we would hope and therefore does not justify the space and upkeep it requires. Second, the reconfiguring of the overall facility space will mean the space can be put to better use for everybody as well as allow us to generate reasonable revenues to support new and enhanced programming. It is a question of priority and how we can best maximize our resources for the greatest good.

Abaya: Are you able to share the cost/benefit analysis that would support your proposal?

Warden: Of course. This will be part of the consultation process.

Abaya: What is the process and time frame for decision-making?

Warden: Our first course of action will be to consult with all the stakeholders through small focus groups and public meetings. Our student body, faculty, alumni, staff, and other users need an opportunity to have their opinions heard. We expect this consultation process to take place in 2007-2008, and a decision will be made only after consultations are completed.

Abaya: What opportunity will students, alumni, staff, and the Lakehead University community as a whole have to voice their comments and opinions?

Warden: In September we started our consultations with stakeholders, and the process is continuing. Stakeholders are encouraged to voice their opinions and concerns either at the sessions or directly to me by email: tom.warden@lakeheadu.ca.

We want to make sure stakeholders have a full understanding of the issues and strategic implications of a decision either way. We also want to ensure that the process is comprehensive, inclusive, and allows everyoneís voice to be heard. The schedule and guidelines for the project consultation process will be available on our website http://athletics.lakeheadu.ca/

Do you have an opinion about the future of the Lakehead University Pool? Email your comments to: editor@lakeheadu.ca


Daryle Martin HBPE '90
The C. J. Sanders Fieldhouse was named in honor of Carl J. Sanders, a wealthy philanthropist who donated the majority of his estate to seven colleges and universities, mostly in Northwestern Ontario. At the time, his gift of $200,000 (toward Phase 1 construction costs of $840,000) was the largest individual monetary gift to Lakehead University.

Phase 1 officially opened in March 1969 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony conducted by Reverend Father David Bauer and a performance by Canadian folk-singing duo Ian and Sylvia. Phase 1 consisted of a gymnasium auditorium accommodating 3,200 people for non-athletic events such as science fairs, conventions, concerts, and Convocation.

Phase 2 officially opened in January 1973. It included an Olympic-sized swimming pool; two large outdoor fields for soccer, rugby, and field hockey; three squash/handball courts; and an auxiliary gym, weight room and exercise physiology lab.

The cost of construction for Phase 2 was $1.8 million, of which the provincial government agreed to pay $1.2 million. The balance came from the Universityís development fund and included an annual grant from the City of Thunder Bay.

These grants were given to the University as part of an agreement between the University, the City and the province wherein the Fieldhouse would be available to the public.

Total enrolment in 1973-74 was approximately 2,600 students.

Dr. Jim Widdop, Chair of the Physical Education program at the time, anticipated the pool would lead to national swimming championships at the University saying, "About 33% of the pool time will be needed by the University. The remaining time will be allocated to the community while University students continue their training in coaching."

The Chronicle-News reported that the general public would be able to purchase inexpensive memberships that would, in the words of Lakehead President Bill Tamblyn, cover administrative costs.

Lakehead University had hoped that the Fieldhouse would be the main site for the 1981 Canada Summer Games, but because the pool was not equipped with five- and ten-metre towers (due to the high cost of construction), the bid was denied.

Public use of the swimming pool has continued to this day, however, with many community groups using the pool for swim clubs, underwater hockey games, Special Olympics training, synchronized swimming, aqua fitness, canoe and kayaking instruction, emergency training, and cardboard boat races for Shad Valley participants and others.

Written by Frances Harding with assistance from Mike Paularinne (HBKiní01, BEdí0, MEdí06)) who researched and wrote a history of the C.J. Sanders Fieldhouse in 1997 for Dr. Ron Lappage, Professor Emeritus of Kinesiology.
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