By RON FANFAIR
Ryerson University students have voted to build a state-of-the-art sports and recreation facility that will enable their sports teams to favourably compete with other universities in the country.
A total of 4,754 students voted in the referendum with nearly 3,500 giving the university the green light to increase tuition fees by $126 to support the erection of the new athletic centre. At the moment, full-time students contribute a province-low $61 in ancillary fees to the sport and recreation department. The increase in fees will kick in when the new building is launched.
A similar referendum was turned down five years ago.
The outdated Ryerson Athletic Centre was built in 1985 when the university had a registration of nearly 8,500 students. The enrollment has tripled in the past 24 years.
Ryerson University Director of Athletics, Ivan Joseph, is ecstatic that close to 74 per cent of the students voted in favour of a new facility despite the meltdown in the global economy.
“In order to build good teams, you have to have the right facilities,” said the Guyanese-born sports administrator who led the Graceland University’s men soccer program in Iowa for a decade before coming to Ryerson last July. “The positive vote in the referendum will put us in a position to talk about training, competing and attracting the right recruits.
“We can also look at increasing the number of full time coaches from a province-low of four. Athletes need leadership and once we have these coaches in place, then we can start developing ancillary programs like academic success initiatives and off-season training and conditioning.
“Then, once we have that set up, we can look at marketing and branding our program so that more people will know about Ryerson athletes and more people will come out to games. We need to bring energy and excitement around our athletic and recreational facility.”
Ryerson has full-time coaches in men and women basketball and volleyball.
Joseph, a doctoral candidate in sports psychology at Capella University in Minnesota and a former assistant professor in health and physical education at Graceland, said the new facility will also increase participation in intramural sports.
“The University of Toronto has 10,000 taking part in intramural sports while we only have 2,000 at Ryerson,” he said. “I want our proportion based on our population to be the same. That is vital because we know that the more students are engaged on our campus, the more likely they are to be academically successful.”
The new facility, to be constructed at a cost of close to $30 million at a site to be identified, is scheduled to open in 2012.
Since assuming his new post, the former soccer coach has naturally shown a keen interest in Ryerson’s men and women programs. The men’s team finished fifth in the East Division this season behind Carleton University, the U of T, and Laurentian and Trent universities while the women placed seventh in the nine-team East division.
“I might be biased, but I think our soccer teams are the closest to reaching the top,” Joseph, who came to Canada from Guyana at age five and was recruited as a student-athlete at Graceland in 1993, said. “Both of our teams reflect the diversity of this campus and the diversity of Toronto and, because I know the game well, I see this sport as the closest to succeed in the near future.”
Since Ryerson was founded in 1948, the polytechnic institute-turned-university has won just one Ontario University Athletic title and that was in men’s curling way back in 1959-1960.