Officials from the City of Nanaimo and Vancouver Island University say it may be time to discuss partnering on a new athletics and health centre for the university.
The comments follow the release of an economic impact study that shows VIU operations contribute $406 million to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast.
The report highlights direct and indirect economic benefits the university brings to the region, measured in three categories: Annual operating expenses, capital projects and students and visitor spending.
However, the report also lays out a potential $280.1-million economic output from three different projects that VIU has designated as priorities for future campus growth.
Included in the list is a sports and wellness centre, which comes with an estimated $52-million price tag. Combined with two other future projects - a new health and science centre and various IT upgrades - the total cost climbs to $169.3 million, the report claims. However, that amount is still less than the projected benefit.
While the projects are laid out in a 50-year campus plan, lacks of funds has been a barrier to them moving forward.
VIU athletics director Bruce Hunter said the report's findings shows a potential partnership between the city and the university could have real economic benefits.
"I do thinks it makes a case at least for a discussion," said Hunter.
The facility would provide new sports and recreation spaces as well as a health clinic available to members of the public.
Hunter pointed out that other communities have seen postsecondary institutions teamed up on capital investments for recreational facilities before, a model that he said is common throughout the province.
"I view that as a way of being efficient with public resources," Hunter said.
Coun. Bill McKay said he believes the idea of a new sports facility merits more discussion, "particularly if the university wants to come to the table, because we can't do it on our own."
"I really believe that a multiplex-type facility with the right combination of amenities, I believe we could make it work," he added.
Nanaimo parks, recreation and culture director Richard Harding said a capital project partnership between the city and VIU has actually been done before.
He noted the city entered a cost-sharing arrangement with VIU to construct the Mariner playing field. He also pointed to a now-defunct plan that would have seen the city partner with the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district to construct a new school and community centre.
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