PAW Centre set to break ground to support campus wellness
Fitness is in the air and it goes far beyond the jogging hordes slowly emerging from their winter hibernation—construction of the Physical Activity and Wellness Centre is just around the corner.
The sprint to begin construction on the PAW Centre this spring is now nearing its final hurdle—approval from the provincial government to begin the dig on the corner of 87 Avenue and 114 Street.
“We are hoping to break ground in May or June,” said Don Hickey, vice-president (facilities and operations). “Our goal is to ensure we have substantial completion by 2014.”
On Feb. 10, the U of A Board of Governors gave its final approvals for the $57-million fitness centre, including a borrowing resolution requesting approval from the provincial government for mortgage financing for the $30-million, student-funded portion of the project.
“I think health and wellness is important to promote at the university,” said Hickey. “Obviously it is something that has been an important initiative for the students as well. I think if we can help make that a reality then that is positive for everybody.”
Rory Tighe, Students’ Union president, says he believes the PAW Centre will redefine what health is on campus.
“The building combines the physical, mental and other aspects of health into this holistic term wellness,” said Tighe. “Physical and mental health are so interconnected, and I believe the PAW Centre tries to take that into account.”
Covering 180,000 square feet, the three-storey complex will house a 20,000-square-foot fitness centre, space for student recreation and study, one of the finest climbing walls in the country and a new Steadward Centre for people with physical disabilities—four times larger than its current incarnation. It will also be connected to the Universiade Pavilion (also known as the Butterdome), the east wing of what will be a renovated Van Vliet Centre and eventually by tunnel to the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy.
On the heels of a string of university landmarks erected over the past couple of years that meet the top sustainable energy-management standards, including the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science and the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, the PAW Centre looks to set the bar even higher.
“There are a ton of possibilities,” said Tighe. “We’re at the stage where the ideas are pretty close to being finalized, but we’re still not positive which ones will make it through.”
Tighe says one of the more exciting concepts awaiting the green light is a system of exercise bikes and treadmills that, when in use, will help power the building. Also getting some attention are ideas involving windmills, solar panels and even a living wall. Tighe also looks to the PAW Centre’s role as a campus showpiece as one of its more enduring physical qualities.
“When you drive by that corner right now it is kind of cold and barren,” he said, “but with the new building we have a great design that will feature a glass exterior that showcases the facilities including a climbing wall and this glass atrium that passersby can look in on. I think it is definitely going make the campus more physically attractive.”
Hickey, who has overseen the construction of some memorable projects during his time as vice-president of facilities and operations, says the design is one the university should be proud of.
“I think it is going to be a marvelous-looking building,” said Hickey. “I think it is going to be a real statement on the corner and I hope people see it the same way.”