New facility a boon to fitness on UBC Okanagan campus
A self-admitted "gym rat", there are few things Simon Pelland values more than exercise and staying fit.
As a varsity athlete and human kinetics student at UBC Okanagan for the last five years, meeting those needs has seldom been easy.
With just over 1,200 square-feet of fitness space on the Kelowna campus serving more than 8,000 students and staff, finding ample time and room to work out has been, to say the least, challenging.
So when UBC Okanagan announced in the fall of 2011 that construction of a new fitness and wellness centre would soon begin, Pelland was among the thousands on campus who had reason to applaud.
Named The Hangar, the 8,800 square-foot facility will feature studio space on the lower level for activities such as yoga and zumba, while the upper level will include both cardio and resistance training equipment.
With construction to be completed by late May or early June, Pelland said The Hangar will be a welcome addition for both the campus population and the community.
"With the fitness area we have now, people were often deterred from using it, a lot of times it's just too crowded and busy," said Pelland. "So I think having that much more space, and a state-of-the-art facility will fill a lot of that need. It might even recruit students to the area because they see what we're trying to achieve here.
"I think it's going to be excellent, a lot more people from on and off campus will want to use the gym," added Pelland, "and they'll be a lot happier when they do."
Connected to the existing gymnasium on the UBC Okanagan campus, The Hangar comes with an approximate price tag of $4.1 million.
The majority of the funding—$3.5 million—was donated by Kelowna Flightcraft's Barry Lapointe, Mary Jo Schnepf and their family.
The donors had a number of conditions for the new facility, including the portrayal of an aviation theme. Thus, The Hangar strongly resembles the wing of a large aircraft with metal-cladding on the roof.
Another stipulation was that the centre be built primarily out of lumber to support the local wood industry. Panels made from cross-laminated timber (CLT) used in the construction of The Hangar were in manufactured by a Penticton company.
From the university's perspective, it was also important that the new facility be architecturally attractive.
With large windows dominating the exterior, coupled with predominantly wood construction, UBC Okanagan Athletics Director Rob Johnson those expectations are being realized.
"Because this is key part of the route and the terminus for convocation each year, it was important for the institution that this be a very beautiful facility," Johnson said. "The glass and wood construction really accomplishes that."
With the official planned opening of The Hangar next fall, Johnson said a significant and long-overdue need on the UBC Okanagan campus will finally be filled.
Because the current fitness room is located in the gymnasium—where finals exams are conducted—students have been missing out on fitness opportunities at the most critical times of the year.
"Because we write exams twice a year when people are the most stressed and need activity to relieve that stress, you can't get in because the gym is in use," said Johnson. "It has to be silent because people are writing exams. This is going to be so much better in that people can exercise when they really need to, as well as when they want to."
Johnson said the rapid growth in the student population over the last several years—from 3,500 in 2005 to 8,300 today—was yet another compelling case for the addition of a new facility.
The fact that the current fitness area is now located in what was once a storage room simply accentuated the desperate need for added fitness and wellness space on campus.
"Even when we were OUC with 3,000 students, it wasn't adequate back then," he said. "Now with more than 8,300 students and 1,700 residents you just can't use converted storage space.
"Part of our attraction as UBC Okanagan is a small-campus size with a big-campus opportunity," added Johnson. "It was very difficult for us with a straight face to promote recreation and fitness with with the facility that we had…very important for us in attracting and retaining students and staff.
"The Hangar will finally give us that ability to show them a world-class, first-class facility, added Johnson, "brand new equipment and great opportunities for individual fitness."
UBCO recreation coordinator Layne McDougall counts herself among those on campus who are most excited with the impending opening of the Hangar.
In addition to an increased overall fitness level at the university, McDougall expects to see a whole new cross-section of students, staff and general public to make use of the new centre.
"Having a user-friendly, everybody-welcome fitness centre is really going to be a great step towards expanding our fitness programs, expanding our personal training services as well as having more appropriate space for the average users," said McDougall. "What we have on one end of the spectrum is no natural light, no free flowing air, an intimidating atmosphere dominated mostly by males. I want an average first-year female, for instance, to walk in and feel welcome at a holistic-wellness facility rather than a weight room.
"We work everyday to promote a healthy campus that will help escalate that."
Although UBC Okanagan's varsity teams won't conduct specific training programs at the new centre, Heat athletes will have opportunities to use The Hangar on an individual basis.
However, when the Hangar is complete, the original fitness centre will be primarily used by Heat teams, without having to compete for space with the general student population.
UBCO men's basketball player Yassine Ghomari expects the added room, time and freedom to benefit all varsity sports.
"Now that the (current fitness room) is going to be mostly for varsity athletes and heavy lifting, there won't be anything to hinder our workouts," said Ghomari. "At the same time, we'll have the upstairs to do other workouts, so it will help a lot. Working out is such a big part of off-season. If we don't do it right it affects our game a lot, power, agility and defence, everything. Having more space and new weights will help a lot."
Jon Rowe is a strength and conditioning coach who works with the varsity men's and women's volleyball and basketball teams on campus.
In the long run, Rowe expects the new facility will result in Heat teams being more and more competitive with their CIS opponents.
"There's no doubt in my mind with increased varsity weight room space there will be an increase in the quality of training," said Rowe, who manages Rowe Strength and Conditioning. "In turn we hope that will mean better results on the floor. Of course, the athletes still have to perform, but they'll at least have the tools to be better prepared."
Still, as well-supported and important as sports are on campus, Rob Johnson said the purpose of the new building is about much more than athletics.
To Johnson, The Hangar will represent the long-term physical, spiritual and social well-being of students and staff on the UBCO campus.
"It's going to be a big part of the student experience and student life," said Johnson. "The whole idea of a university is mind, body and spirit—the mind part has been thoroughly looked after. This is sort of the body part and to be able to be in a space, enjoy the outdoors with all the windows, and to be fit at the same time is a wonderful opportunity. Exercise is, of course, food for the spirit as well.
"The whole process has been a real pleasure and we're excited about opening."