What's next for McKinnon?


- Suzanne Ahearne

In the next few months, the Vikes will slam-dunk for the last time in McKinnon gym, Thunder will wave a fuzzy goodbye to its once-sky-blue walls, gymnasts and martial artists will take in the last of the distinctive 1975 scent of the apparatus gym and most other athletics and recreation activities will relocate to their new digs in CARSA—the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities.

When they do, the 40-year-old McKinnon building will be getting a new lease on life.

Building renovations and physical laboratories are on their way

By the end of September 2016, McKinnon will become a more modern place for research and teaching for the School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education (EPHE), formerly known as the School of Physical Education. Once CARSA is open and the renovations in McKinnon are completed, all the school’s teaching and research will be under one roof.

EPHE has three undergrad programs: kinesiology; recreation and health education; and physical education teacher education. 

Moving athletics and recreation to CARSA and the renovations to the McKinnon building will mean more space for the school, new spaces for existing research labs (two of which are currently located in another building on campus), and more modern and spacious labs that will accommodate better teaching and learning. The gym, small weight room and pool will continue to be used for sports and recreation by students, faculty and staff when CARSA opens.

The renovations to McKinnon will take place over the next two summers with completion anticipated for the start of the fall term, 2016. 

There are three main parts to the renovations: major construction will transform the apparatus gym into a two-story space housing three research labs and one teaching lab and the last two squash courts will be converted into a new teaching lab space on the top floor and a grad student work space on the lower level (some EPHE grad students now work from E-Hut); earthquake-proofing of all renovated spaces; and renovations to the existing teaching labs and some offices in McKinnon. 

The first and second parts—the major construction and earthquake-proofing—are scheduled to be completed this summer. The remaining renovations will be done in the summer of 2016.

Closer ties between Vikes and EPHE

“The whole idea of building a new athletics and recreation facility was the dream of Clint Hamilton, Vikes athletics and recreation Director,” says Rick Bell, director of EPHE.  “From the very beginning the school’s needs and the needs of athletics and recreation were developed in conjunction with each other.”

The link between the two units is their focus on physical activity and healthy living. Front of mind for Bell and Hamilton is their shared interest in making the most of CARSA to nurture the relationship between the school and Vikes athletics and recreation. 

Part of the vision has always been to involve more of the school’s faculty in conducting research that supports the performance and development of Vikes athletes. “That’s already occurring, but there are opportunities to expand the amount and type of research that can be conducted,” says Bell. Some of the Vikes coaches teach courses for the school, part of the close relationship between the school and Vikes athletics. Doug Tate, head coach of the men’s rugby team, teaches courses in the Master of Education in Coaching Studies graduate program and the undergrad physical education program; Craig Beaucamp, head coach of the men’s basketball team, teaches a skill performance and analysis course in basketball, one of more than 22 skill performance and analysis courses in EPHE. 

The 16-metre Peninsula Co-op Climbing Wall in CARSA—the tallest at a BC university—will reward nimble students, staff and community members with a glassed-in view of the campus and the horizon beyond. “The wall is a wonderful example of how this new space might provide new opportunities for learning. The school could now develop a course in climbing that our students could take for credit toward their degrees,” says Bell.

Updated labs to rise in McKinnon

The McKinnon renovations are long overdue and will provide modern spaces for the research and teaching that occurs in the labs. One of the labs that’s moving into a brand new space is the Motion and Mobility Lab (MML), currently in cramped, temporary quarters in McKinnon. Once the high-ceiling apparatus gym becomes a two-storied space, the lab, led by Dr. Sandra Hundza and Dr. Marc Klimstra, will occupy half the space on the lower level.  

This new space will allow for full utilization of research equipment including neurophysiological equipment that stimulates human muscles and records the reactions, a built-in treadmill and force-plates, pressure-sensing walkway, and 3-D motion capture systems. “This space will allow us to measure and better understand how the nervous system controls movement such as walking patterns and balance in people with a history of falls, particularly in older persons,” says Hundza. The new space will also make way for the analysis of movement in sport. For example, a huge door will extend the space out into the main gym, allowing analysis of movements in sports that require longer approaches such as in some track and field events. 

The back wall will be opened up to allow natural light and for a street-level door permitting easy access to the lab for those with limited mobility. 

Beside the MML will be a new technology-equipped pedagogy lab for PE students. There will also be a glassed-in observation walkway overlooking the main gymnasium so students can observe and record the teaching and learning activities in the gym with elementary, middle and secondary school students as well as varsity athletes.

The upper floor of the current apparatus gym will become the new home to Dr. Paul Zehr’s Neural Rehabilitation Lab and Dr. Ryan Rhodes’ Behavioural Medicine Lab, both currently housed in the basement of the MacLaurin building. 

“The work we do in our lab with people who have had neurotraumatic injuries,” says Zehr “will benefit from the new space. This is especially the case for our increasing numbers of intervention studies in community-based stroke participants. Also, having my trainees and I located more closely to other colleagues will be very welcome.”

Rhodes is excited about what the new space will mean for his lab and their contingent of 15 to 20 students and staff. “The extra room for our fitness testing and training equipment as well as workspace will be wonderful,” he says. “It’s also great that my grad students will be able to work closely with the other exercise science graduate students when we are all under the same roof. The Faculty of Education has been a gracious host for my lab for 12 years, but it will be nice to return home. And our new lab is above ground so we are all excited to see natural sunlight.” 

The dividing wall between the last two squash courts in McKinnon (of the original six) will be removed and a floor constructed to create an upper and lower level. The Motor Learning and Biomechanics Teaching Lab will be located in the upper space and the EPHE graduate students will relocate from E Hut into the lower-level space. 

Dr. Viviene Temple’s Motor Skills Laboratory in the Institute of Applied Physical Activity and Health Research (a lab that helps children with special needs develop their motor skills) will see her space doubled. “The increase in space will be marvelous,” says Temple. “My lab has been bursting at the seams recently with projects, graduate and honours students. The expansion will provide much better work spaces for students and allow us to conduct more training and testing in the lab.”

Three labs in McKinnon will increase in size and/or be modernized. This includes: the Physiology Lab and Exercise Physiology Lab that are used for analyzing the effects of exercise on human tissues and fluids; and the Anatomy Lab where there is a shortage of teaching space and inadequate storage for the dozens of skeletal models which currently stand shoulder-to-shoulder beside shelves full of bones, skulls and plastinated organs.


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Keywords: Vikes, CARSA, athletics, exercise science

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