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U of W's new RecPlex friendly to inner city

Residents will have ample use

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The University of Winnipeg's spiffy new $40-million United Health and RecPlex at 350 Spence St. will provide recreational and health opportunities along with enhanced student sports programs.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The University of Winnipeg's spiffy new $40-million United Health and RecPlex at 350 Spence St. will provide recreational and health opportunities along with enhanced student sports programs. Photo Store

Inclusivity was the buzzword bouncing off the unsullied green turf of the brand-new, never-played-on turf of the University of Winnipeg's United Health and RecPlex Tuesday.

Retiring president Lloyd Axworthy spent the better part of a decade putting together a $40-million indoor soccer complex, which he guaranteed would be accessible to the inner-city community.

U of W signed a community charter giving the people who live downtown the right to use the facility one-third of the time -- and in prime hours.

Premier Greg Selinger praised U of W at Tuesday's official opening as "a downtown university that has a vision of serving everybody."

"We have grown to understand ourselves as a place of access. We see the damage inflicted when governments choose to ignore inner cities," said Rorie McLeod Arnould, president of the University of Winnipeg Students' Association.

Mayor Sam Katz cited the inclusiveness of the facility and lauded Axworthy: "This man dreams big, this man makes things happen."

Axworthy told the gathering he went door-to-door on Spence, Young and Langside streets when the noisy construction started to give the neighbourhood a heads-up about what U of W was doing.

"People kept saying, 'Is this place really going to be ours?' " he said. And to everyone, Axworthy answered yes. "It turned out to be the largest focus group I've ever attended, doorway by doorway."

Axworthy said his goal as president has been to open the university to the community and to make the campus truly part of the downtown community, to "build a university in which everybody's talent -- everybody's talent -- has an opportunity to flourish."

Axworthy announced the naming of the Gupta Faculty of Kinesiology and Applied Health, the first faculty at U of W to be named after a donor.

Doctors Daya and Chander Gupta said they donated $1.5 million. They said in an interview they both practise downtown -- he is an eye surgeon, she a uro-gynaecologist -- and believe strongly in the relationship between physical activity and community involvement and good health.

"We've always been in the downtown," said Chander, pointing out both their children are also doctors.

The donation will go primarily to research and to scholarships, Daya said.

The RecPlex complex is expected to be fully operational later this summer.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 18, 2014 B3

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Updated on Wednesday, June 18, 2014 at 8:05 AM CDT: Corrects typo

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