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UPDATE: Major $65M SFU project would include stadium, student space

A proposed $65-million addition could finally provide a focal point for student life at Simon Fraser University's Burnaby campus, said Jeff McCann, president of the Simon Fraser Student Society Monday.

The project would add about 100,000 square feet of student space and a 2,500-seat outdoor stadium overlooking Terry Fox Field.

The plan has been in the works since 2006 and would provide space for student clubs, teams and groups, as well as social space for students, staff, faculty and the growing Burnaby Mountain community.

"Right now student space is in terrible, terrible disarray on campus," McCann said, noting the dance club practises in the cafeteria, music clubs congregate in the hallway and groups sit and meet wherever they can.

Student space is not funded by government, so the project will hinge on the results of an online student referendum March 20 to 22 asking if students are willing to fund it through a levy.

If approved, McCann said, the levy would start at $10 per semester in 2014, rising to $20 per semester the second year and so on, maxing out at $70 to $90 per semester. The student society expects it will take 30 years of the levy to pay for the project.

In 1989, a similar referendum was held but the student society could only afford its current space—one floor sandwiched between two levels of administrative offices—comprised of four conference rooms that are "booked solid" to serve 25,000 students.

"Even the day it opened, it wasn't enough and here we are with a campus population that's doubled," he said. "So we're saying, let's do it right this time, let's get a student union building and get the space that we really need for our campus community to really thrive."

Right now, the proposal would be located in a repurposed Lorne Davies Complex that currently houses a pool, gym and administrative offices, said Tim Rahilly, SFU's associate vice-president of students.

The existing structure is one of the original buildings on campus built in 1964 and designed by Arthur Erickson. The plan is to keep the structure and dig down underneath the pool and one of the gyms to create an additional floor across the span of the building, Rahilly explained.

Partially-covered stadium seating would be built in front of the building overlooking Terry Fox Field next door, both making it easier for students to support SFU athletes and providing a potential venue for concerts and other events.

"I think what's ingenious about this particular proposal is it's taking a central part of our campus, repurposing and really making it a hub for student engagement and student activity," Rahilly said.

Inside the building, the gym would remain but the pool would be moved. Rahilly said the proposal for the Lorne Davies site depends on whether they can move the pool to a different location.

One being proposed is south of Terry Fox Field, where the tennis courts are now. Rahilly said ideally, the pool would be part of an expanded recreation and athletics facility there.

While the Lorne Davies Complex would be the ideal location, it will be about a year after a successful referendum moves the project forward before SFU can do detailed planning work and conclude it is feasible, Rahilly said.

If it's not, there are one or two other parcels of land on campus that would be large enough for the student centre, he said, declining to identify them at this time.

If the proposal is approved at referendum and all goes as planned, McCann said it's expected the new facility could open by 2017.

• The Simon Fraser Student Society has launched a promotional centre on campus, dubbed the Build SFU Think Tank, for the community to learn more. It's open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and is located at MBC 2270, a floor below SFU's Highland Pub. It features architectural plans, 3-D video renderings, and a large 3-D model showing the location of the proposed addition.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

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