The impossible dream

By Editorial

It is the spawn of something evil and dark. It is the bastard child of several generations of Students’ Union execs, each of which presided over its sordid, seizure-ridden construction. We bore witness to its creation, like some awful demon-ridden exorcism, whose epic labour was eight painful years in the making.

Congratulations, students, you now have another building to call your own. New MacEwan Hall is open, and the baby is wailing like there’s no tomorrow.

Seriously though, older students on campus view the six-year expansion debacle with mostly disgust and cynicism. Now that it’s here, we’re wondering what to make of it. Younger students only heard the former rant and rave about expansion, shrugging away the SU-directed angst. Nonetheless, future generations will live under the roof of this new building, so everyone should know a few things about it.

First of all, some history. Students originally approved the expansion of MacEwan Hall in 1995 with both their votes and their wallets. Since then, you’ve contributed $7 per semester to the SU for construction of the building. The rest of the money will go towards paying off the loan for the beast. Most people don’t know that the construction of MacEwan Student Centre, home of the SU and the food court, took 17 years to build from conception to completion. It took the pressure of the impending Olympic Games to finally get it done.

So why did our current expansion take so long? At least half of the reason is the repeated planning changes by successive SU executives. They did it all: changes in location, changes in purpose and even in name. Did you know they were even going to call it the "MUF" at one point? That’s right, the Multi-Use Facility.

While it is certain that many different forces buffeted the SU during planning and construction, loud debaters rarely hesitate to call upon expansion as an example of SU ineffectiveness when it comes to anything big and expensive. If expansion is a joke in the eye of the students, then the SU is the butt.

It’s hard to build something and get it right, they cry. So what? Students still feel misled, and the process was still completely painful. Consider some quotes from the Gauntlet archives:

"Construction could begin as early as Spring 1996, with a completion date of Fall 1996,"– SU President Kate Kimberly (October 1995).

"Ground will be broken in July. If everything goes well, completion will be August 1998,"– SU Vice-President Operations and Finance Akin Jeje (February 1997).

"The hole is being dug in September and there is no turning back,"– SU President Paul Galbraith (July 1998).

Laughing yet?
Despite our cynicism, we do credit the for some things: erecting the MUF-err, Ballroom-will allow the SU to bring in some big-name acts to the university, rabidly profiteering from their new venue. For this, we applaud. We also look forward to the new study spaces and conference rooms.

But the reality is the building was a necessary evil with several problems inherent in its planning and creation. It will exacerbate security issues, especially during concerts, since the new venue can hold up to 1,800 people (the old Ballroom held 650). Given recent problems with the Den-whose capacity is now 740-security will become a serious issue.

Yes, it’s nice to have a new facility created in the interest of students. Yes, it is bigger, better and bursting with new features. But expansion was a process, overseen by our SU, that didn’t happen overnight and included a lot of pain. Enjoy it, but enjoy it with the bittersweetness of a lot of white-knuckle work.

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