After years of delay, the oft-plagued MacEwan Hall expansion finally got underway Thurs., Oct. 26 with a groundbreaking and rock-moving ceremony at the University of Calgary. The new $8.8 million building, to extend from the east side of MacEwan Hall, will contain a new ballroom, as well as space for conferences and trade shows.
"It's been a long, long road that we've had to take to reach this point, but we're all very excited to be here," said U of C Students' Union President Toby White.
Also attending the ceremony were U of C President Dr. Terry White, Calgary-Varsity MLA Murray Smith and SU VP Operations and Finance Matt Lauzon. The construction site also attracted passing students.
"I'm still in a state of disbelief," said fourth-year Ecology student Colin Curry about the project. "It's been promised ever since I came to university."
Fourth-year biology student Meneleo Oba, who is also a member of the Filipino Students' Association, was happy a bigger ballroom is planned.
"The FSA does their cultural night there and the stage is not adequate," he said.
The new facility will also include an underground link to Science B and eventually a plus-15 link to MacKimmie Library.
"This is a very important project in helping us to link the campus," said Dr. White. "It's special not only for what it does for the MacEwan Student Centre, but for what it does for our campus, making it easier to get around."
MacEwan Hall expansion was first proposed in 1995. Since then, the project has seen several reincarnations and experienced a number of setbacks, such as a lack of an operating agreement with the university and difficulties getting a loan. Full-time students contribute seven dollars a semester to fund expansion. A $10 million loan with the Royal Bank is currently being finalized.
"The loan's coming along well," said Mr. White. "We haven't signed the document yet."
The rock was also moved during the ceremony to a triangular patch of grass between the construction site and the Swann Mall hill. Students were a little disappointed to see the change.
"It's like moving the Statue of Liberty," said Curry. "If it wasn't in the Bay of New York, would it still be the Statue of Liberty?"
The construction area is now fenced off, restricting student traffic around the construction site. Forty-one of the 42 trees that must be removed are too mature to be transplanted, and will be recycled as much as possible, including use in the Calgary Zoo's grizzly bear habitat as mulch.
The SU predicts the building will be finished in summer 2001.