For Gee-Gees teams to take the next step, they first need the right place to call home
For a school the size of the University of Ottawa, the offered athletics facilities are in desperate need of re-evaluation.
The oldest facility used by the university is Montpetit Hall, which opened in 1972 and has been the home of Gee-Gees basketball, volleyball, and swimming ever since.
In recent years, the men’s basketball program has catapulted itself to an elite level nationally and the women’s team has also been perennial playoff contenders. Looking at their facilities, there’s plenty to be desired.
Montpetit does have its benefits—it’s cozy and has been the site of some massive games, but after 44 years, the Gees are in desperate need of a new home.
This season, an entire set of bleachers was unable to be rolled out for games due to patchwork deterioration on the floor, and this slashed seating from an approximate 1,000 to 500-600, making the gym look much emptier.
The lack of seating and age of the facilities shows that there’s a finite amount of time until there is a home court hindrance instead of an advantage.
Less than appealing grey separation screens are dropped down throughout the week to segment each of the three gyms. When they are not in use, they are bunched up and suspended from the ceiling, proving to be an eyesore for fans sitting higher in the bleachers.
Apart from the gym, the concrete-laden pool area is industrial and dated, with poor lighting and seating areas.
The school recognizes the issues Montpetit has and included “Montpetit redevelopment” in last year’s unveiling of a campus master plan. Its existence is a long-term goal more than an actual fixed timeframe, and it’s unclear whether it includes new space for varsity teams.
Montpetit is not the only athletics space in need of some overhaul. Matt Anthony Field at the Minto Sports Complex has been home to Gee-Gees soccer and rugby since 2001. The complaints for the field are mainly the poor condition of the bleachers as they consist mostly of rusty metal with some wooden components. They don’t provide much of a comfortable experience for viewing games, and often times are sparsely populated despite a convenient on-campus location.
Matt Anthony also was used as the football team’s practice facility prior to the completion of Gee-Gees Field at Lees. This move has rendered the space largely underused apart from games on weekends and intramurals for a handful of hours per week in the fall.
The university’s website calls the Sports Complex “the university’s state-of-the-art sports facility”, which may have been so 15 years ago, but is no longer true.
The hockey arena is adequate, and the second rink is more commonly used for intramurals and community games.
The gym space is too small for the growing university and is becoming quickly outdated. The university has also “addressed” this in their master plan, as they have proposed an additional ‘sports complex’ across the street from Minto on Mann Ave.
This would likely be the location of the new basketball, volleyball, and possibility swimming facilities, but like Montpetit, the timeframe of its arrival is more theoretical than realistic.
In comparison, the University of Toronto opened the new Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport in fall of 2014 after it was announced in 2011. With a $58-million pricetag, it’s perhaps the best-looking home of any Canadian collegiate basketball team.
Despite the U of T’s $2-billion operating budget, the Government of Ontario footed $22.5-million of the bill, while the Goldring family donated $11-million and received naming rights.
If something similar could be planned for the U of O, the campus would actually have its state-of-the-art athletics facility.
The most recent addition to the school’s facilities is Gee-Gees Field, which is suitable but is a no-frills home to a successful football team. The busy Queensway as a backdrop to games is less than ideal, and it deals with the dated Lees building as its hub for locker rooms and facilities. The school has more ambitious plans at Lees, but expansions to the stadium seem unlikely.
Track and Cross Country teams currently have no on-campus home and are required to travel 50 minutes by bus to the Louis Riel Dome. The school has no announced plans of rectifying this.
For the university to truly support their athletes, it’s time to reconsider the facilities they’re giving them to utilize. Bringing the campus into the future is happening one step at a time, but with this, steps need to be taken towards advancing athletics as a whole at the U of O.