Fitness facilities update

Phased approach begins with South Street fitness centre

- November 29, 2013

The current cardio equipment at Dalplex. New cardio and strength facilities will be a key part of the new fitness facility on South Street. (File photo)
The current cardio equipment at Dalplex. New cardio and strength facilities will be a key part of the new fitness facility on South Street. (File photo)

Dalhousie’s new fitness facilities are moving ahead with a phased approach.

After exploring a number of alternatives, the Project Team is now approved to focus on Phase One and develop a design concept for a new stand-alone Fitness Centre on South Street, intended to be an effective first phase for future comprehensive redevelopment. The South Street location will be on the current site of Eliza Ritchie Hall. (Eliza Ritchie has long been planned for demolition following the completion of the new Mixed-Use Residence on LeMarchant Street.)

The fitness facility will include:

  • Cardio and strength training facilities
  • Group fitness studios for dance, yoga and spin
  • Competition-quality double courts
  • Customer service and equipment rental facilities
  • New change rooms

These features were all among the most requested in both the 2011 Campus Recreation survey and in fitness facility consultations held over the past two years.

A revised conceptual design for the new facility is scheduled for presentation to the Board by February, at which point a more detailed project budget and construction timeline will be finalized.

Addressing Dal’s fitness needs

The need for new fitness facilities at Dal has been obvious for some time. The university’s recreation facilities serve 8,500 students and 3,800 Dalplex members, but have long been showing their age in a noticeable way. In the Canadian University Survey Consortium’s undergraduate survey, Dal students’ satisfaction with athletic facilities declined nearly 20 percentage points in the past decade, and the 2011 Campus Recreation survey identified that satisfaction with recreation facilities was about 10 per cent lower at Dal than the Canadian university average.

Bonnie Neuman, vice-president of Student Services, says the approval of the new fitness facility approach is a big step towards addressing these concerns.

“We’ve made a commitment to our students to improve our fitness facilities, and it’s really exciting to now be at the point where we can begin fulfilling that promise,” she says.

Dr. Neuman explains that the phased approach — focusing first on immediate priorities before looking at renovations or replacements for other facilities — makes responsible use of the student fee that will help fund the project. In 2010, the Board approved a $180-per-year fitness fee for Dal and King’s students in Halifax to fund a new centre, with the commitment that the fee would only apply once the facility was open and operational. (Once the building’s mortgage has been paid off, the fee allocation will be used to further recreation facility renewal.)

“We had hoped to be further along on the project by this point, but it could not move forward until the LeMarchant Mixed-Use Residence was nearing completion, and we wanted to be especially diligent given that student fees will be supporting it,” says Dr. Neuman.

The new facility will not replace Dalplex, but will serve specific needs. Clearly, though, Dalplex and other fitness facilities like the Studley and Sexton Gyms are aging, and Dal has committed to assessing the overall recreation needs of the Dal community over the next few years and produce a long-term plan to revitalize those facilities.

These conversations will include a possible shared arena with Saint Mary’s University at the Gorsebrook site off South and Robie Streets. (That project currently has the approval of the Province and is pending further discussions with the Municipality.)

Moving forward

Once the concept phase for the new facility is complete, the Dal community and the university’s neighbours will be informed and consulted in greater detail about timelines, project specifics and other relevant decisions.

“Our fitness facilities and recreation programs are critical to attracting and supporting the best students — a healthy mind and healthy lifestyle are both essential parts of the campus experience,” says Dr. Neuman. “It’s our hope that this new facility will represent a big improvement in our students’ ability to live active and healthy lives at Dal.”


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