Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You don't know what you got 'til it's gone

Few things during my time at Queen's have depressed me more than finding out yesterday [myself and Emily Davies, Queen's Journal] that the dream of a new hockey arena on Main Campus was all but dead. Sure, they've been talking about it for a while and there are some financial benefits (although no one I talked to yesterday could confirm if those numbers are still accurate), but for me, the arena was always one of the big selling points of the Queen's Centre. New gyms and student space are great, but the sports experience I probably miss more than anything else here were the Friday night hockey games at Jock Harty I'd go to with my buddies from the dorm floor back in first year. There was great student support, beer gardens and just generally a tremendous atmosphere. I've been to plenty of great Queen's hockey games since, including this past weekend's Carr-Harris Cup, but it's never been quite the same; even though the Memorial Centre is a good facility (and pretty similar to the old Jock), it's dead for the vast majority of the games.

Unfortunately, that's what I see happening with this new project if and when the West Campus arena gets built. Yes, some students make the pilgrimage out there for football, but that's quite a bit different; it's during a warmer part of the year, there's always been more buzz around football than hockey here and the games are in the afternoon instead of at night. Believe me, walking back from the desolate wasteland of West Campus is bad enough on a nice afternoon; it's far worse on the sort of frigid winter night we have in Kingston far too often for my taste. Maybe I'm wrong; maybe students will embrace this, especially if the rest of the West Campus redesign goes ahead (and they actually put a bar or something out there; it's in the middle of absolutely nowhere at the moment). Given the apathy that seems to exist towards varsity athletics, I'm not sure that will happen though.

Personally, I think Queen's would be better off continuing to lease the Memorial Centre than building a West Campus arena. This would cost a lot less, and the Gaels have the place pretty much to themselves these days. It's also about the same distance (or closer) to most of the student living areas, and it's certainly closer to restaurants, bars and the like. It doesn't really seem that that option is being considered, though, and that disappoints me.

The most disappointing aspect of all, though, is that in my mind, we're not getting what we put up the money for. The student contribution to the Queen's Centre was obviously controversial, but I think one of the big selling points in its favour was access to a new, state-of-the art on-campus arena for varsity and intramural hockey as well as recreational skating. Now, we don't have that, and that's unfortunate.

I don't blame Athletics for this; from the conversations I've had, it doesn't sound like they were the ones who proposed the idea or made the decision, and I don't think you can blame them for the problems with the Queen's Centre that are forcing all the cost-cutting. I am disappointed in the university administration for not recognizing that an arena on Main Campus is essential to the Queen's Centre, and I'm very disappointed in the AMS for not standing up and protesting about this. Students signed on to this project partly because of the promise of a new arena; student leaders should speak up about it getting relocated.

The most disappointing point, though, is how this was handled. The decision has been practically made (the arena's not even in the blueprints any more), but doesn't technically come until March. Last week at the town hall on the Queen's Centre, associate vice-principal (facilities) Ann Browne spent part of her presentation talking about how great it would be to have the arena on West Campus as if the decision was done, but then rapidly backtracked when I asked her point-blank about it. On the plus side, Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin and associate dean of student affairs Roxy Dennison-Stewart were willing to talk about it on the record yesterday, which is a big step forward. I just wish that the whole situation had been announced up front in a forum like that town hall to give students the opportunity to debate its merits instead of taking the arena off the blueprints without telling anyone.

This could all work out. Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin and associate director (facilities) Herb Steacy made some good points in my meeting with them yesterday about how just a fieldhouse (instead of the orginal fieldhouse/arena) is a superior multi-purpose facility for large concerts/assemblies/exams and the like, and that's something we could certainly use. Moreover, maybe by the time the arena's actually built there will be enough infrastructure on West Campus to make the trek actually worthwhile. We could wind up with a great new athletics complex out there, and maybe students will flock to it. For the moment, though, any silver linings I find keep getting covered up by new clouds.

1 comment:

  1. On to the next challenge. There's little time to waste.