No, demand from the student body isn’t as strong as it appears
By Tanya Humeniuk
The story of the Build SFU project is best-described as a tragicomedy. Nobody wins, and the characters’ absurd actions bring about a disastrous end. Fittingly, the lack of transparency regarding the project has left the events behind the controversy with an air of mystery.
As the plot unfolds, it’s clear that building the stadium would be a mistake — just like the entire Build SFU project.
To set the scene: the Simon Fraser Student Society’s (SFSS) Build SFU project originally consisted of two parts, a Student Union Building (SUB) and a stadium. As stated on the SFSS website, “this $65M project aims to redefine and enrich the student experience at SFU.” It will include things meant to appeal to “the student experience,” like a napping room and a DJ-karaoke space.
The SFSS introduced a new student fee to finance the project, which would increase over time. During last September’s Annual General Meeting, students voted to pay the fee and proceed with building both structures.
A year later, construction of the SUB is underway. If you haven’t noticed, it’s that giant eyesore of a mud pit jammed between the AQ, Convocation Mall, and SFU Theatre. Meanwhile, the construction of the stadium has been cancelled due to infeasible costs. The final estimate for the stadium was roughly $30 million, greatly exceeding the original $10-million budget.
Unsurprisingly, this news has upset the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). Some have claimed that the SFSS used the promise of a stadium to con student athletes into supporting Build SFU, only to cancel that aspect at the last minute. Their rationale is that the vote for the project only passed because many participating students were athletes wanting a stadium.
Without sufficient funds for both buildings, the society’s chucked the plans for the stadium, despite those plans being largely the reason that the project passed. But what this controversy has brought to light is that the Build SFU project doesn’t have adequate support from the student body anyway.
The only students upset about the cancelling of the stadium are SAAC members and student athletes. Everyone else either doesn’t care or, like me, is relieved. If it’s true that most students at the meeting were athletes, then I question the legitimacy of the vote passing the project.
Decisions as major as green-lighting expansive projects like Build SFU shouldn’t depend on who decides to show up to a meeting. This allows decisions that concern all SFU students to be made by groups that are hardly representative of “the student” at SFU.
If there was a motion to award mathematics majors $1,000 each, obviously all of the math majors would show up and vote “yes.” Word would spread amongst math majors, but no further than that (why tell anyone who might vote against it?). Meanwhile, nobody’s paying attention to motions that don’t obviously concern them.
When one person catches wind of an issue, they only inform their peers. And unfortunately, SFU has a very disconnected student body. This leads to decisions that only represent the needs of the most clearly involved groups, even when less-visible consequences exist for others.
The denouement: those largely responsible for Build SFU’s approval don’t even get what they wanted. The SFSS executives, who would’ve had a nice achievement for their CVs, are left with only an ordeal steeped in controversy. All that “the student” gets is a rising semesterly fee and — let’s not forget — a DJ-karaoke room.
Yes, but students shouldn’t be the ones paying for it
By Jessica Pickering
As someone who admittedly had — and still has — some objections to the Build SFU project as a whole, I do believe SFU needs a stadium. After all, SFU has a certain standard to aim for as a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). However, the cost of those expectations shouldn’t be students’ responsibility.
Since Build SFU’s conception, the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) hasn’t advertised the stadium component as much as they could or should have; many didn’t even hear about it when first learning about the project. The only fully informed demographic was the student athletes. Obviously, as the facility’s would-be primary users, they had a vested interest in the plans — only to be left high and dry.
As an earlier Peak article quoted Olivia Aguiar, president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), the SFSS “[used student athletes] as a fulcrum to pass the Build projects, to only take the stadium away.” Having attended multiple AGMs, including the one where the vote took place, I vividly remember how many athletes were present. While there’s no telling whether they all voted “yes,” based on the current outcry from that corner on social media, it’s safe to assume that most did.
Now the stadium’s cancelled — not without reason, perhaps, but questions remain. Why didn’t the SFSS get an estimate before the vote? Why didn’t they inform SFU Athletics and the athletes directly? And why is there no public discussion of other ways to keep the stadium project alive?
The main issue is obviously that the price is no longer feasible. Don’t get me wrong; I’m thrilled that the SFSS isn’t going to simply charge us the difference between the previous and current estimates. However, there has to be another option.
Alumni have sponsored many buildings on campus, with the donors’ names proudly displayed on their walls. Meanwhile, our athletic teams are a point of pride, especially for those who played on them before graduating. It seems unlikely that there aren’t any alumni who would like recognition on the side of a stadium.
Corporate sponsorship is another popular avenue. It’s not unheard of for businesses to buy NCAA stadiums’ naming rights: Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts, Hard Rock Stadium in Florida, and Heinz Field in Pennsylvania, to name a few. Beyond that, if the stadium was completed, the SFSS could sell advertising space, vending services contracts, and more.
Then there’s the fact that SFU has allegedly offered to pay for part of the stadium should the SFSS go forward with the plans. As a student, this is less appealing, as it’s still my money paying for it. On the upside, it’d be a significantly more visible manifestation of what our tuition pays for than the school’s usual expenses.
If I alone can suggest these options, an entire team of people committed to this project should be able to come up with even more. It seems more than probable that there’d be a way to fund the project, if its creators were to invest more time and effort into adapting to the changed circumstances. Finances take time, and a loan of the size necessary for this venture is no matter to rush into. The way the stadium has been dropped is disappointingly short-sighted, though.
I would highly encourage the SFSS to continue seeking funding options (preferably ones that don’t raise student fees) in spite of the recent setbacks. SFU’s athletes trusted and supported you; you should reward them for that. You owe them that much.