As announced last week by the Simon Fraser Student Society, the Stadium portion of the Build SFU project has been terminated before ground had even been broken on the project.
After estimates predicted that the project would likely cost three times as much as the projected ten million dollar price tag, the SFSS Board of Directors decided to terminate the project at their last board meeting on August 11.
“On July 5, we got the cost estimates from the architects, and it was a $22 million hard cost,” said Arr Farah, VP University Relations for the SFSS. “After you add in the soft cost, it was around $30 million.” The hard cost refers to the cost of construction itself, whereas the soft cost includes such expenses as legal, architectural, and engineering fees.
“Our budget was only 10 million — that’s all students approved,” Farah added. “So it was safe to say we just couldn’t afford this project anymore.”
The development comes while construction of the Student Union Building (SUB) has been underway for months.
“It’s a difficult decision, but when you think about all the other students in the school in its entirety, you really do comfort yourself saying it is the better decision for all the students”
– Larissa Chen, Interim President of the SFSS
It wasn’t an easy call to make for the Board, especially for members like Farah and Interim President Larissa Chen. Both were members of last year’s Board of Directors, who were the ones to approve the Build SFU project in the first place.
“It was a very difficult decision,” said Farah. “I know for Larissa and I, we were on the board last year, we were part of the push to get the vote for both the SUB and the stadium project. I think there’s a lot of emotional attachment to this project.
“It’s just not feasible,” he continued. “The real responsible decision is just to cease the project and that’s what’s in the best interest of student who are paying today and in the future.”
In regards to student payments, the Board guaranteed that there won’t be any increases to the levy due to anything like cancellation fees, which was a fear expressed by students online. As it currently stands, the levy will remain the same, though there is a chance it could be decreased, according to Farah and Chen.
“I think in terms of [a levy decrease], it depends on the conversation we have with SFU and Scotiabank,” said Chen. “We don’t want to give any false promises in advance, but we’re definitely going to be taking into consideration that the Stadium project will not be moving forward and continue to choose what’s best for all students.”
Those conversations will likely happen during the upcoming fall semester, and Farah indicated they are the biggest priority right now for the SFSS.
The decision comes weeks before the start of the semester, which will also see a by-election for a new SFSS president and Environment Faculty representative. The choice to discontinue the Stadium project will likely be one of the last that Chen has to oversee as interim president, and one which she said was very challenging.
“It’s a difficult decision, but when you think about all the other students in the school in its entirety, you really do comfort yourself saying it is the better decision for all the students,” she said. “The onus isn’t on anyone, it’s just that it’s not possible.
“The decision was very, very hard because I was on board last year and we definitely did push for both the Stadium and the SUB and we really believed in it. We really wanted to see it pass and be successfully completed.”
When asked about how this might affect the SFSS’ relationship with SFU Athletics, Chen hoped that they would be able to see that the project wasn’t feasible.
“I think that in terms of our relationship with SFU Athletics, there’s really not much we can do to control how they perceive the situation. All we can do is provide them with the facts and the cost estimate as it stands right now which is very much outside of our scope,” she said.
Farah agreed, adding that there is a difference between SFU Athletics and the student athletes whom the SFSS represents.
“Our relation with the athletics department is [the same] it’s always been. [There is that element that] they always want us to work together and collaborate on different things,” he said. “But when it comes specifically to student athletes, I think it’s important to note that the SFSS has been in support of, the Board has been in support of — we really pushed to get this vote.
“We need to do, as Larissa said, what’s in the best interest for all our students.”