ANTIGONISH: After two days of meetings late last month, the president of StFX announced that the Board of Governors approved the 2019-20 balanced budget and gave authority to proceed immediately with a $6 million renovation to the Oland Centre.

On Monday, the latest phase of renovations project, which has been fully fundraised, began and will see a complete overhaul to the area underneath the stadium bleachers that were installed this past year, which is scheduled to be completed by August, just in time for the upcoming varsity athletic season.

“It includes all of the varsity locker rooms that are underneath the stands; football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s rugby, men’s and women’s basketball, and track and field,” Andrew Beckett, vice president finance and administration and head of student services told The Reporter on February 27. “So it’s an extensive renovation to that entire area.”

He said the Oland Centre is a facility that hasn’t had much extensive work done to it since it was originally built in 1967 and it’s in need of some significant upgrades to modernize the building.

Beckett said there are several layers in terms of how important these renovations are for the athletic department at the university but he highlights the importance for the football team.

“It’s a huge improvement because they don’t have a locker room presently [that’s] accommodating to the entire team, so this renovation will allow that to happen.”

Gary Waterman, head coach of the StFX X-Men football team, who himself played both as a running back and defensive back with the white and blue from 1988-1992, explained their current situation included two locker rooms; a main one which consisted of 49 small, metal lockers that couldn’t hold or keep players’ gear safely stored, while players would sit on a tiny bench in the middle of the crammed room. Another negative about their current locker room was it was only accommodating for the dress-roster.

Waterman explained the new expanded locker room will finally address the team’s challenges with size and space, as the new room will feature 100 state-of-the-art wooden lockers that will be accommodating for the full team and their gear.

In addition to the upgrades to the several varsity locker rooms that will be renovated, Beckett said the university will also be constructing two brand-new locker rooms for visiting teams.

“… This renovation will [create] two areas for visiting teams, plus it will add a small public washroom in that area as well.”

Phase one of the renovations to the Oland Centre saw the main gymnasium receive a $1.3 million upgrade and was re-branded as ‘Coach K Court’. The first part of Phase two involved the new $1.5 million bleacher re-design for Oland Stadium that coincided with hosting the Special Olympics this past summer, and the newly bolstered varsity therapy room opened their doors just this past week as well.

Looking to the future, Beckett said the next phase of the Oland Centre renovations would be expanding the auxiliary gym to add an additional playing surface, renovations to the public change areas along with the shower facilities, and above that would be the expansion of a new student fitness centre that would triple in size from what it is currently.

“That would be several years out in order to get funding for that,” he noted. “Then there will be some various upgrades to some of the other existing components of the building and trying to dress up the front entrance area.”

The total cost of the complete renovation project to the Oland Centre is estimated to be $30 million, with $23.5 million coming from private donors, $1 million from the province and $500,000 from the federal government, and $5 million from students – which was the subject to a referendum last year and passed with 844 votes out of a total 1,325 votes cast, resulting in 63.7 per cent support.