Tower expansion will focus on healthy living

Expansion will focus on healthy living

Construction at the SMU Tower. Photo: John O'Brien

The Tower, the athletic centre at Saint Mary's University, looks like a building that serves its purpose very well. With squash courts, treadmills, a well-stocked weight room, and a huge gymnasium, the Tower certainly doesn't look like it needs anything else. However, since October 2010, it has been undergoing a big expansion. It is called the 'Homburg Centre for Health and Wellness'.

Steve Sarty is SMU's Director of Athletics and Recreation. By April of 2012, he will have had that job for three years. He says the Homburg Centre is needed for "additional space" and that it will be "actually more about healthy living" and promoting healthy lifestyles.

The building will serve as the new home for SMU's Centre for Ethics in Sport and several coaches (such as men's and women's soccer teams, women's volleyball, track and field) "will all receive their own offices, which they don't have now."

The Centre for Ethics and Sports is dedicated to providing "cutting-edge information on sports and wellness." For example, Sarty mentioned one man "who was researching the success rate of NHL draft picks."

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Construction at the SMU Tower. Photo: John O'Brien

The construction has had some negative side effects. The biggest is that no one can access the front door, which is in the part of the building that is being renovated. Entry is restricted to one door on the side of the Tower. However, the general feeling is that the Homburg Centre's long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term annoyances. 

The people who use the Tower on a regular basis seem to be supportive of the project. One man said that there is not enough room for all of SMU's athletics programs in the Tower right now, and that the Centre "is going to add" a lot to building. Another said that the work might improve the Tower, but insisted that it is "the best gym in the city."

The Homburg Centre looks and sounds compelling but it is by no means cheap. The total cost of the construction is $8 million. The lion's share of the money has been provided by real estate developer Dr. Richard Homburg. Sarty describes Homburg as "a local businessman, certainly a philanthropist as well," with a "strong passion for health and wellness." He says Homburg "has a vision" of the centre as a place not just for SMU, but "for the masses" as well.

Dr. Homburg contribution may be the largest but it is by no means the only one. Steve Proctor, SMU's Manager of External Affairs, talks about donations made by other parties. 

"BMO Financial Group has provided some funding, as has Manulife Financial and McInnis Cooper" (which donated $100,000). While people giving money to universities is nothing new, the Homburg Centre is the first building on the SMU campus that is mostly funded by a private donor. "Dr. Homburg's is the largest single donation we've had."

If all goes as planned, the Homburg Centre will be completed and opened in April 2012. 



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