Student services building spells end of Spoke patio

Fate of warm weather student haunt hangs in the balance as construction slated to start on new $21-million building

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western's Student Services building: Concept Art

BUILDING ON THE FUTURE. Western's Student Services building, soon to be under construction behind the University Community Centre, will centralize all student amenities in one location. It's not all peachy, though: boozers on the Spoke patio will be left gloomy in the shade.

Students will soon have one-stop-shopping for all their administrative needs, as the construction of a new Student Services Building behind the University Community Centre is set to commence in early March.

According to Western vice-president resources and operations Gitta Kulczycki, many services will be centrally located for the convenience of students in the new building, which is documented in Western’s 2007-08 Operating and Capital Budget.

With a total budget of just over $21 million, the new Student Services Building will house the Registrar’s portfolio, a new international centre and various services currently offered in the UCC.

There will be several connections between both buildings so students can travel between them indoors, and improvements will be made to the surrounding area.

“It would be nice to see if we can increase the usage by making it more attractive,” Kulczycki explained. “The outdoor amphitheatre will continue to be there ... but it will look different, and hopefully better.”

University Students’ Council President Tom Stevenson said construction will hopefully involve “greening” the area to become a new courtyard.

Unfortunately, the new building also signals the closure of the Spoke’s back patio.

Professional school senator Peter Markvoort realized this issue at a November meeting of the Advisory Committee on Parking and Traffic and has been a vocal opponent of the building since then.

“[The Student Services building] is going to completely destroy the patio,” he said. “No one wants to drink beer in the shade.”

Markvoort added the patio brings in good money for the Spoke, which Andrew Mes, manager of the Spoke and Wave, confirmed.

Mes said Spoke sales during warmer months " September, October, March and April " are in the tens of thousands of dollars.

“The patio drives business in these months and in the summer,” Mes added.

Board of Governors member Matthew Reid said the original confidential building plans were passed by the board in June and the issue of the patio did not become evident until September when the USC brought attention to it.

However, Reid sees the project as beneficial despite the loss of the Spoke patio.

“[The Student Services Building] is going to help minority students, prospective students and the image of the university,” Reid said, noting the building’s capability for hosting dignitaries and Western applicants.

“Can you imagine if we keep the patio, and the first thing prospective students see is a bar? What kind of message does that send parents with their 17-year-old kids?”

Mes said different locations and configurations for the patio are being discussed and he expects positive negotiations between the USC and Western administration to find an adequate solution.

Kulczycki and Stevenson both assured dialogue on the issue will continue.

For now, students have mixed feelings on the new building and its effect on the Spoke.

“I think student services needs improving ... but I like chilling on the Spoke patio,” second-year management and organizational studies student Michael Pek said. “I tend to put my beer above student services.”

But fourth-year health science and political science student Andrew Cudmore said the building’s effect on the Spoke is not a big deal: “The patio is seasonal anyway.”

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