"Iconic." "Wow factor."
That's how Red Deer College president and CEO is describing the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.
On Friday, members of the media were given a full tour of the $88 million facility – one which Ward stressed is not a sportsplex or recreation centre, but rather a building to celebrate health, wellness and sport.
"At the end of the day, partnering with the City, the Canada Games and the province of Alberta ensured that we could take this project that we envisioned as quite smaller into the project you see now,’ Ward said. “We get one shot -- go big or go home -- and we would be regretting a smaller project 10 years from now.”
A year away from opening its doors to the public, the exterior of the building is awfully close to finished. Inside, a hive of busy workers are installing everything from squash courts and running track to the arena floor and classrooms.
The Harris Games Centre is essentially split in half with the great hall acting as a divider between the 1200 seat gymnasium and 1100 seat arena. Dispersed throughout are countless learning spaces including in the Donald Health and Wellness Centre, so named thanks to a generous $3 million contribution from Jack and Joan Donald last fall.
The arena area features seven dressing rooms, future Hockey Alberta headquarters and extra-wide hallways. The ice surface will be convertible between NHL and Olympic sizes. The ice plant was installed by the same company which worked on the brand new Rogers Centre in Edmonton.
What’s more is the building has been designed with the future in mind and the space available to add both a second floor to the Donald Centre on the building’s south side, as well as a second ice rink.
"We'd hoped to get the second arena done at the same time, but it drove the costs beyond what we thought was reasonable for us to manage at this time in our history, so we said look, if we can’t build it now, let's at least set the stage for it,” Ward continued.
The fully barrier-free facility will be one for all Canadians, according to Ward, who noted there are already national championships for volleyball, basketball and hockey lined up for post-2019 Canada Games.
Additionally, the roof of the centre, not counting the great hall, is completely covered with solar panels which will produce one megawatt of energy. A future covered walkway from the Harris Centre to the main campus will also have solar panels. As well, there is a new man-made retention pond to the building's south - which will double as a meditiative area and natural space for students and athletes.
“If we're going to be a polytechnic university, if we're going to be offering degrees,” Ward said, ‘then we need to have world class, first class facilities and this is one of the very best in the country, university or college.”
The Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre will play host to five sports during the 2019 Canada Winter Games, including squash, short track speed skating, figure skating, wheelchair basketball and badminton.
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