As Premier Doug Ford eases restrictions on construction amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Brock University has resumed construction on the Zone.
On May 6 the Ontario government stated its intention to slowly re-open the economy, “As the trends improve, we can move forward with reopening more and more of our economy and getting people back to work,” said Ford. Shortly after this announcement, Brock University made the decision to continue construction on the highly-anticipated Zone expansion project.
Eric Walter, the fitness manager of Brock Recreation, assures Badgers that despite the recently-lifted halt on construction, the Zone will be completed in a timely manner. The temporary pause in construction did not stop the construction and planning team from pushing forward, even from afar.
“There was a period of time when construction of this nature wasn’t allowed to continue, so during that time, we were very limited with what the team could do on-site. That doesn’t mean that work had stopped altogether; it just means most work on-site had stopped. We regularly continued having our planning meetings, online obviously. Behind the scenes, there was still a lot of work that was being done,” said Walter.
Eager students and faculty may have not been able to see tangible construction occurring on the site, but the construction team, engineers, architects and planning staff continued to work remotely. The Zone’s expansion task force filled their schedules with reworking timelines and adjusting plans to ensure construction could resume.
At the forefront of the Zone’s expansion is Aquicon Construction. Amid the pandemic, their team has been fast-acting to prioritize punctuality and safety.
“The construction management team we are working with from Aquicon has been fantastic. They have been very adaptable and have been a very versatile group. They have been making changes and adjustments as things have continued to evolve,” said Walter.
In addition to on-site work, The Zone’s budget has been strategically allocated so that construction can resume even during the economic turmoil that COVID-19 has inflicted on millions of Canadians.
“They [the construction and management team] adjust [the budget] as needed and as they go, obviously this entire pandemic and the shutdown has had an impact on every industry, [and] it has had its impact on the project. The team is doing a good job to mitigate any of those negative impacts,” said Walter.
As working conditions and restrictions continue to change, safety has remained a top priority of the Zone’s expansion. Individuals working on the expansion project must adhere to governmental policies, as well as specific requirements on-site.
“There [are] strict polic[ies] in place that they [the construction team] have to adhere to and that are set out by the government. That is layer number one, they have to meet those standards. Beyond that, every person that is on-site at any given time works for companies that are very aware of the situation and prioritize their employees’ well being, as the university does. Every measure that can be taken, is being taken to make sure that these individuals are able to work safely and with as little risk as possible to their health and safety,” said Walter.
Amid this uncertain time, one thing is certain; that the future of the Zone is bright.
“It is amazing, I don’t have a doubt that this [the Zone] is going to be something we can all be proud of and that students can be excited about,” said Walter.
The COVID-19 pandemic will not stop Walter’s unwavering passion for the Zone’s improvement. As a staff member and alumni of Brock, Walter is committed to ensuring the Zone will exceed expectations.
“I always think […] ‘how are we going to make it literally the best gym you have ever stepped foot in?’ and that is what we are going to do. It is important that students do not think that it is going to be just a bigger version of itself, because it is going to be a bigger and better version of itself, but also of what it hasn’t been able to be in the past,” said Walter.
After construction concludes, Walter anticipates that the Zone will continue to improve in the years to come.
“There are going to be things that are missed and we will take feedback once it opens and as time goes on it will always change. Really, it is going to be the facility that students deserve and that they want,” said Walter.
The Zone’s ongoing expansion and Walter’s optimism offers a sense of hope to Badgers who have been impacted by COVID-19. Brock students will have a brand-new facility to return to and be proud to call their own once construction is completed and provincial quarantine restrictions are lifted.
“This whole pandemic has put a damper on everything, but when it does clear up and we are getting back to whatever normal may look like, we are ready for you and you’ll have the facility you deserve. We are looking forward to it,” said Walter.