U of T’s $60 million Goldring Centre for High Performance Sports


Largest university sports infrastructure project to be ready for Pan Am Games

GTA Construction Report special feature

The University of Toronto’s new $60 million Goldring Centre – the largest sport infrastructure investment at any Canadian university — will augment physical education, support community participation and provide an international competition venue – including the 2015 Pan Am Games.

The 13,000 sq. ft. project designed collaboratively by Patkau Architects and MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects (MJMA) and constructed by EllisDon, is the final phase of a $98 million Varsity Centre complex renewal.

Ira Jacobs, the university’s dean of the faculty of kinesiology and physical education, says “this is the largest infrastructure investment in sport at any one university.”

He said the centre will contribute to the university’s curricular and co-curricular activities. “We have one of the largest programs for student athletes with 15,000 enrolled in intramurals and 1,000 student athletes on 44 teams.”

The design-build project includes a below-grade basketball and volleyball court with arena style retractable seating for 2,000 designed to international standards. Even lower are support facilities including change rooms, first aid rooms, therapy space and a plunge pool. Above grade, and above the courts, are a sports medicine clinic, academic spaces and research labs, as well as a strength and conditioning centre.


Architect Shane O’Neill with Patkau Architects says the joint design team provided the perfect balance for the university, despite the great geographic distance between the colleagues. Patkau is in British Columbia. “We have experience with large university buildings and MJMA is experienced with high quality sports facilities,” O’Neill said. “There is a lot you can do virtually but we understand face-to-face is important as well so there was a lot of travel to Toronto, especially initially as we were laying out programming for the centre.”

“The new centre doubles our available space and puts an emphasis on athlete support,” says Jacobs. “We have many partnerships with athletes outside the university who will benefit from the centre and we hope to expand our partnership potential within the province and on a national scale. The combination of physical education and research spaces will encourage research into high performance sports.”

Jacobs says the centre will fill a gap in sport science research and teaching, sport medicine, athlete training, coaching and competition.

MJMA architect Aaron Letki says the building’s design reflects a connection and relationship between science, performance, and competition. Large feature windows connect the Goldring Centre to the Varsity Centre across the street and a plaza space in front further connects the two. The strength and conditioning centre looks out directly onto Varsity’s playing field. Hidden and yet very visible in the architecture lies the building’s biggest design challenge, Letki said.

“The city zoning requirements called for a set back from the property line but the court wouldn’t fit within that volume. Since below grade development at the university is exempt from the zoning setbacks, the fieldhouse was able to be fit on the site underground.”

The building above, a bridge spanning the gym supported by diagonal trusses, provides both a key design element and a structural solution. O’Neill says structural engineer Blackwell created “a solution that works in harmony with the structure.”

The court area receives natural light through a continuous perimeter strip window in the top three metres above-grade. Motorized blackout screens will control distracting sunlight during competitions and provide privacy.

Letki said other design challenges included the diverging requirements for the upper three floors.  “One floor is designed to hold an MRI, which is very sensitive to vibrations, and another to hold an Olympic weight room,” he said.

He said designers set the weight room as an 18-inch concrete mass elevated on springs on a one-metre concrete slab on the steel frame. “The weight room is big and heavy enough on its own but if it does move, has this spring base to absorb the vibrations and ensure they are not carried to other floors,” Letki says.


Acoustical consultant HGC Engineering designed the complex isolation system and provided vibration analysis.

The university received a $22.5 million contribution from the province’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, and the generous support of private individuals including the Goldring, Kimel and Stollery families. The energy-efficient centre is designed to meet LEED Silver certification and includes a green roof, now a standard Toronto city requirement, and an interior rainwater cistern.

The building will be completed in late 2014, in time for several 2015 Pan Am Games events.



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