Aquatic Centre Gym, Part I

Posted by: | March 14, 2007 | 3 Comments

Due to a hole in our wordpress implementation, this post is incorrectly attributed. It was originally written by Tim Louman-Gardiner.

So the University decided to close the Aquatic Centre Gym. Students fought back. There’s the story. The first part is dedicated to the gym and the background – Part II will discuss the very interesting student response.

Why is the gym important?
On its face, it may not be. The Bird Coop is bigger, there are gyms in all the residences, and this one is just tiny. Well, for one thing, it’s the only free gym on campus. It’s also used by the various clients who use the Aquatic Centre, to create a more complete fitness regime. When it was built 30 years ago, there was so much student money involved that the University agreed to have free student times, and free student use. But most importantly, there’s a sense that this gym matters to people; its users feel a distinct sense of ownership.

Who closed it? How?
Aye, there’s the rub. See decisions about the Centre’s use are supposed to go through the Aquatic Centre Management Committee, a joint UBC-AMS committee, with student representation. This process was by-passed.

Who did that?

We don’t know. A Ubyssey article pointed the finger at the new manager of the Aquatic Centre, chalking it up to his inexperience. But recent evidence and thoughts from Aquatic Centre staffers indicate that this was in works a long time, and probably directed from the head of Athletics himself. Again, we can only speculate that Bob Philip, Director of Athletics was behind it.

Why close the gym?
Theories abound. The most plausible one involves revenue generation. Simply put, a free aquatic centre gym takes business away from the Bird Coop. (Never mind that the Coop is crowded during peak hours!) There are other theories, including renovation, but the fact that Athletics is putting forward a business case ought to indicate it’s about dollars and cents.

Why the outrage?
First, UBC students pay $175 each year to Athletics and Rec. What value do UBC students get for that money? Well, over 60% of the money goes to varsity sports, so the average students doesn’t get a penny. The rest goes to athletic and rec programming. But here’s the thing – UBC’s one of the only universities in the country that doesn’t give its students free gym passes. A Bird Coop membership is only slightly cheaper than a City of Vancouver pass. We still have to pay hundreds of dollars in team fees for Rec leagues that have no referees, staff, or supervision. In a system that already produces precious little value for students, we ought not be removing the only value added piece!

Where next?
Well, Athletics needs AMS and student support for two major projects. First, they want to hike the Athletics and Rec fee to subsidize a new gym. The AMS ought to link any successful outcome in this situation to the proposed fee increase. If Athletics is so willing to show disregard for students, then we shouldn’t be in the business of supporting them. Second, UBC wants to be part of the NCAA. It’s Bob Philip’s dream. And, should the continue to stand in the way of students, we should do everything we can to oppose that change, on the grounds that students just don’t want it.

Athletics, and UBC, really need to start to listen to students. And tonight I’ll post Part II, where students start to speak up.


3 Comments so far

  1. David on March 14, 2007 11:21 pm

    Absolutely horrendous characterization of the Rec program Tim. Horrendous. You claim that there is no referees, staff or supervision and you are absolutely and completely wrong on all accounts.

    Intramural sports cost roughly the same here at UVic (for most of the sports) and the level of organization is painfully bad. UBC Rec shows an amazingly high level of organization considering the volunteer contributions that run it and frankly I’m shocked you posted that comment.

    As for varsity getting a lions share of the money, it’s true they do. As a huge supporter of the program, you can understand how that money can be used to build school spirit and help develop superb student athletes. A strong varsity program only helps the overall image of the university, and can give students something to be proud of. I know that even though I am at UVic now I’m still proud of the UBC athletes I know who work incredibly hard and who I have no problem supporting through student fees.

    As for joining the NCAA, it is Phillips’ dream, and I think it is something that would be hugely beneficial for the school and for local and Canadian athletes. Why do so many great Canadian athletes have to leave the country for school? Because there is no comparable system in Canada. If UBC joins the NCAA, local athletes can stay here, building athletics program for Canada. It would also end up bringing money into the school as the bigger stage of the NCAA will inevitably drive up attendance at all sports and the likelihood of donations as well.

    Does any of this mean that I support closing the gym? Absolutely not. Only that you’ve done an excellent job of completely obscuring the real question of why we should keep the gym open by slandering both REC (completely unjustified) and Bob Phillips (potentially justified, but irrelevant).

    I’m somewhat disappointed, as this I expect this kind of post from a certain segment of the politically involved kids at UBC, but thought that you wouldn’t resort to it.

    – Dave.

  2. Tim Louman-Gardiner on March 14, 2007 11:48 pm

    David –

    1) I didn’t slander Rec. UBC Rec is an excellent organization that does a terrific job of building community on campus. But when I played rec league basketball, our team fee was a few hundred dollars. There was no supervision (call me a liar, but it was entirely true), no referees, no staff time involved in any way beyond league setup. All we were paying for was gym time, and I don’t understand why it was just so expensive.

    2) Unfortunately, however, Rec has to be linked with the whole process. Why? Because they’re part of Athletics and Recreation. The money’s all in the same pot. So it has to be part of the discussion.

    3) I like a strong varsity program. I’m very likely to be seen on a Friday evening at a T-Birds game. I nearly got kicked out of the Shrum Bowl for cheering too loudly. I support varsity athletics. But it doesn’t take place in a vacuum. It ought not to trump regular students. And I only propose linking student support for an expanded Athletics regime to ensuring that that same Athletics department doesn’t bleed students for even more cash.

    You suggest that I’m obscuring the real reason for keeping the gym open. May be. My reason is because A&R gets a chunk of change from students, as does the Aquatic Centre, and ought not to sacrifice an important service for more cash.

    SO my question to you: what’s the real reason to keep it open?

    PS – I really do love rec and varsity sports. Seriously. But not when the cost gets too high.

  3. Spencer on March 15, 2007 2:34 pm

    Just to clarify the Athletics and Rec fee thing. To my understanding, they’re proposing a new $40 opt-outable fee, not an increase to the Athletics and Rec fee.

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