When Olympian Barney Williams looks at the new recreation complex taking shape at the University of Victoria, he can imagine his kids reaping the rewards.
Williams, a UVic graduate and 2004 Olympics silver medallist in rowing, on Tuesday helped kick off the two-year countdown to the opening of CARSA – the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities. The $77-million project aims to be the next jewel in the crown of Victoria’s sports facilities.
“I’ve got three kids who in all likelihood will go to school here. Having better facilities for the next generation is an exciting reality,” said Williams, who lives in Saanich with his wife Buffy-Lynne Williams, also an Olympic rower.
“Look at PISE, the rugby centre in Langford, the Commonwealth pool and even the velodrome is back up at Juan de Fuca. Now with (CARSA) we’ll draw even more great student athletes. This will help transform the sporting landscape.”
CARSA broke ground at UVic in February and the foundation and support pillars for the main 17,685-square-metre building provided the backdrop for a celebration for the facility.
Soon-to-retire UVic president David Turpin called CARSA “the No. 1 capital priority at the university and the most significant physical legacy of the university for its 50th anniversary.”
“The case for CARSA is clear. UVic is a destination university for students from around the world,” Turpin said. “It’s been 30 years since we’ve invested significantly into athletics facilities.”
CARSA should have a bit of everything as a hub for athletics at UVic and in the Gordon Head community.
It will replace the aging McKinnon gym as the base for UVic athletics, and will house the Vikes athletics programs, a state-of-the-art fitness centre, a rowing centre, an 18-metre climbing tower, 2,000-seat gym, a field house, a sports injury clinic and facilities for CanAssist, which creates technical devices for people with disabilities. It will also become home to a new rugby training centre.
The centre will also have a five-level parkade, a point of contention in the community and at Saanich council that took more than a year to resolve.
Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard thanked UVic for its significant economic contribution to the community.
“This is a truly international university, known around the world. And somewhat selfishly for us, it’s good for the regional economy,” Leonard said near the CARSA construction site.
“Myself and my colleagues are grateful for (UVic’s) growth in the community and what is being built behind us right now.”
Williams said while the McKinnon gym and the off-campus Ian Stewart complex are excellent training facilities, they are falling behind in terms of attracting elite athletes and future Olympians. UVic has had more than 160 alumni participate in Olympic Games as athletes or coaches.
“I moved here in 1995 with the singular goal of going to the Olympics in rowing. UVic was the No. 1 school for rowing in Canada,” said Williams, who works at the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific within the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence. “Times have changed and things really evolved. It’s almost like an arms race for resources in facilities and investment.
“This will be the envy of a lot of universities, for sure. Especially in these economic times, investing in such a facility is exciting.”
UVic awarded Campbell Construction Ltd. the $58.6 million construction contract.
Architectural and engineering services, permits, consultation costs and outfitting the building with gear is budgeted at about $19 million.
CARSA is due to open in the spring of 2015. See uvic.ca/carsa.