BUSU President-elect plans to continue discussion for expansion of The Zone

Brock students using The Zone / Satbir Singh


During this time of political transition within Brock University Student Union, it’s very important the student body familiarizes themselves with not only the people whom they have elected to represent them but also the platforms which acted as cornerstones for their successful campaigns.

Faisal Hejazi ran a well received campaign which allowed him to capture 66 per cent of the total vote as well as the BUSU presidency for the 2017/2018 academic year. Amongst his most highly anticipated platform points is the promise to expand Brock’s on campus gym facility, The Zone.

“I’d say the majority, if not all, the students I spoke to were excited about the idea. My major platform points were to put a grocery store on campus, increase student jobs and expand The Zone. We’re lucky with that [last] process because the gym is located next to the Walker courtyard so there’s lots of space to utilize,”
said Hejazi.

Concerns about the size of The Zone began to arise after the Student Living Fee passed in a 2013 referendum. Before this referendum, students could only gain access to the on campus gym if they individually purchased a membership. However, the Student Living Fee subsidizes those memberships through an additional fee attached to tuition payments allowing any One Card carrying Brock student access to The Zone. Now that Brock students didn’t have a choice to opt out of a membership, the general expectation of the gym facility increased.

“Our gym has been the same size for 15 years and yet our population has doubled in that time. We are the biggest growing student population with approximately 18,000 students enrolled this year. We are lacking in this regard; other universities have way better facilities all across Ontario,” said Hejazi.

Another massive incentive to expand The Zone is the obvious health benefit it will have on the student body. Hejazi has looked into having Brock graduate students conduct research looking into the correlation between the health and wellness of students and the increased size of The Zone.

The president elect has been working tirelessly with Neil Lumsden (Brock director of athletics) and Robert Hilson (Brock director of marketing and business development) in order to plan and position themselves favourably to make this platform goal a reality next year. Over this summer Hejazi and his team will meet with consulting companies and contractors in order to gather the research and information necessary to estimate accurate figures for the project. Hejazi believes that expanding The Zone is an achievable goal.

Once all of the research is collected, Hejazi will bring the issue of expanding The Zone to referendum. Hejazi believes this referendum will take place in February of 2018 but is optimistic for more expediency in this process. BUSU will set up the referendum so students will vote to make small payments each year over a finite number of years to financially support the expansion. This will be a refreshing difference for students as the majority of referendums posed to them offer additional services along with an indefinite increase to tuition fees. The fact that Hejazi and his team will be proposing this referendum using small payments over what he believes will be a five year period will be an appealing aspect for his pitch.

If the referendum is passed by the student body, Hejazi will seek approval for his blueprints from the Niagara Escarpment Committee. Currently, the design that BUSU is feeling most confident with is to tear down the north facing glass wall where the treadmills are currently located (facing towards the Walker Complex Welcome Desk) and extend it into the courtyard that way. This will double the current size of The Zone and allow more students access to the gym. BUSU is also seeking approval to extend the second floor which would extend and attach to the eastern wall. This construction would take place over a 12 month period according to Hejazi.

One concern students may have is that while this construction is going on students wouldn’t have access to a gym space on campus while they were paying for it through the Student Life Fee. However, Hejazi’s plan does address this concern.

“We’re researching into either closing off a portion of the gym or beginning construction from the far end of the courtyard and then working in. The gym may be closed for a short period of time to break down the glass wall and that is unavoidable. We’re trying to mitigate that as we move forward,” said Hejazi.

Another concern students may have would be the poor preparation and execution that has been shown in previous projects. For example, the newly installed bus shelters were delayed due to Brock and BUSU waiting for approval from the Niagara Escarpment Committee.

“You need to submit a request to the Niagara Escarpment Committee before you can build anything in this area because it is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. When we came in, that request had not been made so we took over and that’s why the shelters were so late,” said Hejazi.

When asked how this problem will be avoided for The Zone expansion project, Hejazi replied,

“To mitigate that with the gym we want to put the request in right away. Once we get approval from the referendum we’ll submit right away. That’s why I want to do all the research over summer so the last step is the referendum before we put our plan into action step by step.”

The issue of the budget will be a contentious topic because Hejazi’s plan procures a finite sum of money over time. His team’s estimates will have to be extremely accurate because there won’t be any reserve funds should the project go over budget. Lastly, along with the physical expansion of The Zone, Hejazi has ambitions to overhaul the service they provide. He wants to work on expanding the hours The Zone stays open but particularly focus on the weekend service.

“I’ve been involved with Med Plus through volunteer opportunities. Through the program I saw that mental health can affect students at a young age. As we grow up, stress increases with responsibility. You have an increased workload, paying bills, balancing a social life, family, etcetera. Increasing the size of our gym is going to target mental health. One day I was upset and wanted a good workout so I went to The Zone. I got even more upset because the gym was completely full and I had to wait to use equipment. Having The Zone at a small capacity isn’t helping
right now.”

An expansion of The Zone is still in the early stages, however, the discussion being brought to the table could help move the project along.

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