Construction on the new ‘Centre Forward’ Student Centre extension will finally begin this week after considerable delays.
The sod was turned for the building in April 2009, and following the drainage and clearance of the site, construction was due to begin in August. However, the contractor for the job was only appointed two weeks ago.
It is understood that the lack of a contractor, coupled with the recent Students’ Union investigation into the overcharging of the Student Centre levy have contributed to the substantial delays in the project. The facility was projected to be completed in early 2011.
Located between, and integrating, the current Student and Sports Centres, the state-of-the art, multi-million euro makeover will include a fifty metre swimming pool and expanded gym. Health and counselling services will also be improved, as well as a range of new debating arenas and theatres.
Student Centre Manager, Dominic O’Keeffe hopes the development will result in a more student-friendly atmosphere in the facility, explaining that “the benefits for students will be a more convivial atmosphere that allows for collaborations and crossover between the societies. Hopefully with free access to the gym we’ll see healthier students too.”
A student referendum in 2006 approved the imposition of a student levy as a means of partly funding the redevelopment, with the remaining funding coming from the university’s own resources. “We have a funding plan in place that will see the university contribute €13 million, and the Student Centre Levy contribute the remaining €31 million, over twenty years” said O’Keeffe.
Talks on how to refund the €7.50 erroneously charged to students on the Student Centre Levy recently ended in a successful agreement between the Students’ Union and the University. The agreement will see the extra charges used to top up the Student Capital Grant Fund, with another €50,000 being donated to the Student Welfare Fund to assist those in financial difficulty. The rest will be split between the Students’ Union, the societies and sports clubs for capital investment. As part of the same agreement, but still subject to final approval, is a commitment to make the President of the Students’ Union a board member of UCD Student Centre Ltd., the limited company with overall responsibility for the building.
Students’ Union President, Gary Redmond, said that he is “delighted that we have been able to return the money to students, and while handing back twenty-four thousand cheques may have been a good PR stunt, realistically it wasn’t an attractive option. This way the money has gone back to those who most need it.”
The Student Centre redevelopment is part of a €220 million capital investment programme underway in Belfield. Among several major projects due to commence in 2010 will be phase II of the Roebuck Hall residential complex, which will see the addition of 134 beds in a new six story building. Construction has also begun on a new centre of excellence for research and training in dermatology, in a building to link the Conway Institute with the Health Sciences Centre. This project is a joint venture between UCD and the City of Dublin Skin and Cancer Hospital.