You Won't Recognize the Place

Hardhats may soon join the list of essential school supplies as the university embarks on the largest building upgrade in campus history. "Historically, the campus goes through 10 year cycles of renewal. Twenty years ago, it was the geology building. Ten years ago, it was agriculture, now we are seeing another upswing in the largest capital development program we've seen on campus," says Larry Harder, director of planning and engineering.

The first building to benefit is the old Thorvaldson Building, currently home to the chemistry labs. Harder says the introductory labs are the same now as they were when the building was constructed in 1924. "It has become impossible to deliver state-of-the-art education with the old equipment."

The upgrade includes renovations on Thorvaldson plus a major addition behind the present building, to be called the Spinks Building. The chemistry labs will be moved into the new Spinks building as soon as it is ready, early in 2002. Once that move takes place, Harder says they will move chemical engineering from Thorvaldson to the Engineering Building and then move Computer Science into the newly renovated Thorvaldson facility.

"Once we have the new space, we can leapfrog people around and upgrade their new space," he explained. "He says students will not be significantly affected by the construction. "We won't be displacing them, although there may be some noise because of the construction. The academic programs are already scheduled and we can't disrupt them. We will be able to use the free space as a checkerboard," he said.

The second phase in the capital development program, a new building for the College of Kinesiology, will be completed by fall of 2003. The college was displaced last year when the old Phys Ed gym failed, forcing students and staff to move to the Williams building on Cumberland Drive. The new facility will include three gymnasiums as well as the older gym, upstairs from the pool. A fund-raising drive will likely bring in the cash needed to equip the building properly.

The first step in the capital development program, rebuilding the loading docks and the construction of a pedestrian link between Thorvaldson and the Arts Building, has already started. Eventually, all the major academic buildings around the bowl will be linked by pedways, leading to improved scheduling and better access for people with disabilities.

Harder estimates it will take seven years to see the entire project to completion, depending on cash flow, but he doesn't expect the rebuilding to stop there. University President Peter MacKinnon has placed a high priority on upgrading the old College Building. The building, designated as a provincial heritage building, is deteriorating fast and needs money to help fund its preservation.

Harder says they have designed and planned for the renovations, so when the money comes in, they will be ready to go. Harder expects that alumni from even 10 years ago may be surprised by the changes on campus.

With the new Canadian Light Source Synchrotron facility underway, the addition to the commerce building 75 per cent complete, and the sixth floor of the agriculture building about 40 per cent complete, the campus is already taking on a new look. And there is talk about adding a twin-ice skating arena with 2,500 seats and a students union proposal to expand Place Riel, which could mean even more changes in the future.

Harder says the building renewal will be good not only for the students, but for the entire economy of Saskatoon. "Over the next seven years, we expect to see upgrades totalling around $350 million on the capital development project alone. It will definitely have a positive impact on the economy."