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Shaping up to be a beauty

$45-million fitness centre to transform U of M campus

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How could anything possibly replace the Gritty Grotto, that dank, subterranean pit of workout areas and a running track carved out of the rock and ground below the Frank Kennedy Centre?

This is how: 100,000 square feet of gleaming fitness facilities that the University of Manitoba boasts will be the finest and largest fitness centre in Manitoba.

It will transform the entryway to the heart of the campus, said president David Barnard, thrilled at the prospect of a $45-million building that comes gift-wrapped with $22 million of government money.

"This is really a beautiful design. It's going to be a very attractive, welcoming building," said Barnard.

The Active Living Centre will be built on stilts above a parking lot just south of the Frank Kennedy Centre, connected to that building at three levels, and to the rest of the campus by a tunnel to the architecture faculty.

"It's a significant entryway to the campus. It will transform that major boundary between the athletic precinct and SmartPark," said Barnard.

The centre's name is just a working title -- naming rights will be part of a fundraising campaign.

The three levels of government contributed $22 million in return for the U of M's giving land for the new stadium project.

"It's going to be so large and so beautiful and so wide open. It's going to have such a presence on that corner," said Gary Thompson, director of recreation services. "It's going to be amazing for the university."

He said Cibinel Architects has designed a building that will make most activities and users visible from the outside, while being wide open inside.

On the top fourth floor's 200-metre track, "They're going to be running around a glass building. Those nice maple trees on Dafoe Road will still be there," inches away from the runners.

Thompson said the university may expand its current fitness and workout hours in the new centre, currently 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.

There will be a small private area for activities such as archery -- no arrows flying randomly -- but otherwise everything should be wide open. Locker-rooms will stay in the Frank Kennedy Centre, but they'll undergo a major renovation.

One workout area is set aside for strength and conditioning for varsity athletes, said Thompson, who noted the Bisons football team will have its own workout area in the new stadium.

The main floor will be the student agora, an area the U of M hopes will become a hub for students looking to relax before or after a workout, find an Internet connection, grab something to eat, or just hang out.

"It's exciting, we're ready for it, it's been a long time coming," said kiniesiology and recreation management student Courtney Askin. "It will be a great meeting place for people."

Askin said students are realizing the benefits to their health and their academics by working out regularly.

She pointed out one area of the building will have private workout areas for multicultural students and staff who prefer not to exercise in public view or in large groups.

"It'll be disability-friendly," said kiniesiology student Cassandra Cure. "I think it's going to be absolutely phenomenal."

When everything is up and running, the new centre will be able to handle 1,200 people working out at a time.


Could open by late 2013

The University of Manitoba's new $45-million Active Living Centre is a 100,000-square-foot gleaming four-storey building that could be open as early as late 2013.

Accommodating 1,200 happily sweating people at a time, the facility immediately south of the Frank Kennedy Centre will have an open concept built around a main floor agora -- a place where students can relax, meet, grab a bite, use Wi-Fi, and hang out.

The U of M expects the centre to be the largest fitness facility in Manitoba.

Connected to the Frank Kennedy Centre at three levels, and by tunnel to the architecture faculty and thus to the rest of the campus, the centre will replace the Gritty Grotto -- the workout area below the Frank Kennedy Centre.

Three multi-purpose rooms will offer yoga, Pilates and dance.

The fitness floor will be an enormous area with the latest in cardio and weight equipment.

The fourth floor will be a 200-metre track with views of the floors below and the campus outside.

And there's a 12-metre climbing wall visible from most of the interior of the building.

From outside, people going by can watch students, staff and members of the community work out.

The Active Living Centre is part of the package that comes with the new football stadium project. The U of M is also installing two lighted synthetic turf soccer fields just west of the indoor soccer complex, and six tennis courts, location still to be determined.

The plans are on display at open houses Monday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in University Centre, and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Frank Kennedy Centre.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 12, 2011 B1

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