The University of Winnipeg



UNITED Health & RecPlex brings new energy to campus and inner city youth

James Allum, Minister of Education and Advanced Learning; UWSA President Rorie Mcleod Arnould; Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz; Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger; Dr. Chander Gupta and Dr. Daya Gupta; UWinnipeg President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Lloyd Axworthy; Joan Rettie; Ken Grower, Thomas Sill Foundation; and Director of the Youth Agencies Alliance, Chino Argueta,

James Allum, Minister of Education and Advanced Learning; UWSA President Rorie Mcleod Arnould; Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz; Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger; Dr. Chander Gupta and Dr. Daya Gupta; UWinnipeg President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Lloyd Axworthy; Joan Rettie; Ken Grower, Thomas Sill Foundation; and Director of the Youth Agencies Alliance, Chino Argueta,

$40 million facility creates new recreation and wellness destination for students and Central Winnipeg residents; enhances downtown and West End renewal

WINNIPEG, MB – The most significant recreation and wellness facility ever created in Winnipeg’s inner city community – The University of Winnipeg UNITED Health & RecPlex – officially opened its doors to welcome students and neighbourhood partners on Spence Street today. The University of Winnipeg, The Province of Manitoba, the City of Winnipeg, surrounded by numerous community partners and the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association, officially cut the ribbon on the $40 million facility that will serve students and Winnipeg residents, and specifically those in the inner-city community, for decades to come.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, UWinnipeg President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, President, University of Winnipeg Students’ Association. Rorie Mcleod Arnould and Chino Argueta, Director of the Youth Agencies Alliance welcomed neighbourhood youth and the University community to the complex which will provide unparalleled recreational and health opportunities along with enhanced student sports programs. It will also add significant new energy to the revitalization of Winnipeg’s downtown and West End neighbourhoods.

“This is a world-class facility that gives youth a safe place to play and thrive,” said Axworthy. “Many of the children and teenagers in this neighbourhood are new immigrants facing language and financial barriers and Indigenous youth. We are creating a respectful and inclusive environment for all. Just as importantly, our students and faculty have gained an important new resource on campus, with access to hands-on academic and community-based research opportunities and new practicum experiences.”

Programming within the facility is specifically designed to meet the needs of multiple groups: Wesmen athletes and UWinnipeg students who want to have fun and stay in shape; neighbourhood youth and residents; and amateur sports organizations requiring space,


The total complex is 189,000 square feet and accommodates a 55 by 90-metre soccer field, which meets minimum FIFA standard. It provides new indoor training and practice space for all Wesmen teams, in particular soccer. It can also accommodate numerous other sports such as flag football and track and field, as well as cultural and community events. It has:

  • a large multi-use artificial turf field
  • a four-lane rubberized sprint track
  • a community gym/meeting space
  • a jump pit
  • retractable batting cages (for baseball practice donated by the Rettie family)
  • Thomas Sill Community Multi-purpose room with climbing wall
  • food and beverage kiosks
  • secure underground parkade for 194 vehicles and 56 bicycles
  • Great-West Life Healthy Campus and Research Centre
  • Drew Olson Student Lounge

Construction of the new facility is possible because of generous government grants, with the Province of Manitoba contributing $15 million and the City of Winnipeg committing $2 million to the project.

“This modern and accessible facility will be a major benefit, not only to the University but also to the wider community,” said Premier Greg Selinger. “The province is pleased we were able to partner with the University and the City to make this great project a reality.  We all win when our students and citizens have access to great ways to stay healthy.”

“I am proud the City of Winnipeg has partnered in the United Health and RecPlex that provides our young people, especially inner-city youth, guaranteed access to sport and recreation opportunities that are so critical to their success and well-being,” said Mayor Sam Katz. “And it’s exciting as well to have this world class facility right here in our downtown for students and faculty to continue building on incredible academic opportunities provided by the University of Winnipeg.”

A UWSA-sponsored student referendum approved a student athletic fee of $30 per term to support construction of the new facility.

“This facility will provide a wealth of opportunities to our members, and will also play a key role in University and community programming,” said Mcleod Arnould, “This initiative will afford students and youth experiences that will contribute towards the betterment of our neighbourhoods and a brighter future for our city.”

Great-West Life donated $500,000 to create the Great-West Life Healthy Campus and Research Centre inside the complex. The donation includes $100,000 to support the Executive Director, Wellness and Student Life in managing a Wellness Office as part of the University’s emerging Healthy Campus initiative. The Thomas Sill Foundation donated $200,000 to create the Thomas Sill Community Multi-Purpose Room, and Wawanesa Insurance donated $50,000 to support the facility.  An investment of $230,000 in energy efficient features by Manitoba Hydro’s Power Smart program is estimated to have the equivalent positive environmental impact of taking 119 cars off the road for one year, and will allow UWinnipeg to save $25,000 in annual energy costs. The Rettie family provided a donation towards baseball batting cages and equipment. Mark and Leslie Olson provided a $60,000 donation to support the Drew Olson Student Lounge in memory of their son.  The UNITED Health & RecPlex is also supported by a mix of tenant leases and parking fees.


UWinnipeg’s Athletics Department has embraced the concept of community learning through an active outreach program and has created distinct inner city teams for multiple sports. UWinnipeg currently supports approximately 300 neighbourhood youth under the Inner-City Junior Wesmen umbrella which includes boys’ and girls’ basketball, soccer and wrestling teams. With new space in the RecPlex available, the goal is to expand the inner city program to accommodate 500 children and include baseball, golf, track and field and flag football through partnerships with the community and support from private donors. The RecPlex will also become the new home for UWinnipeg’s neighbourhood Pow Wow Club and the Eco-Kids Summer Camp which attracts 1,200 inner-city children annually. The popular day camp allows children to participate in engaging activities with a focus on Indigenous science.

Over the course of several years, following town hall meetings and in collaboration with community partners, a unique Community Charter was developed with a broad coalition of 18 youth-serving agencies and community stakeholders. The Community Charter Principles — which include openness, inclusion, accessibility, accountability, respect, sustainability, health, wellness and healing — was ratified by UWinnipeg’s Board of Regents on June 18, 2012.

The RecPlex will be open for community use approximately one third of the time. That includes time for organized community-based teams and programs and some free “drop in” time after school for neighbourhood youth and families.

Chino Argueta lives in the West End and has been deeply involved with the Spence Neighbourhood Association. Now he is director of the Youth Agencies Alliance and is a member of the UNITED Health & RecPlex Community Advisory Committee.

“Over the last two years, Youth Agencies Alliance has developed a strong partnership with The University of Winnipeg as we collaboratively work to ensure that everybody has access to this state-of-the-art facility,” said Argueta.  “We are really excited with the RecPlex and the variety of programming that will be implemented. We can’t wait to see the smiles on the faces of the youth when they run into the RecPlex and bring it to life with their energy. The RecPlex will be a safe, welcoming and meaningful environment where youth can be themselves, participate in activities and learn new skills. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the University to provide quality programming for the community for many years to come.”


UWinnipeg’ Faculty of Kinesiology is developing new academic and research programs including the Head’s Up Concussion Institute and the Sun Life Diabetes Awareness and Education Program, located inside the newly created Great-West Life Healthy Campus and Research Centre.  A strong focus is on illness and injury prevention, wellness promotion and health care for students and youth. This coincides with UWinnipeg’s multidisciplinary Healthy Campus Initiative, The new facility also allows for increased community-based research with student practicums, and employment opportunities for students.

The RecPlex is connected by skywalk to UWinnipeg’s Duckworth Centre which will undergo renovations to offer an expanded Athletic Therapy Clinic with athletic therapy, massage therapy and medical practitioners; a multi-purpose wellness space; the Bill Wedlake Fitness Centre; and the Dr. David F. Anderson Gymnasium.


A unique part of UWinnipeg’s history is preserved with a piece of original Tyndall stone embedded next to the front entrance of the RecPlex. It was 1871 when the first students gathered in a house in what is today West Kildonan to study the classics, an initiative of Reverend John Black. That house was owned by Selkirk Settler Donald Murray, and would become Manitoba College, which merged with Wesley College to form United College in 1938. It then became The University of Winnipeg in 1967. Several years ago, educator, history enthusiast and former Chair of The University of Winnipeg’s Board of Regents Richard Graydon was walking the Murray property and came across a Tyndall stone basement. It became his mission to reclaim and repatriate a section of that Manitoba College stone back to UWinnipeg’s main campus. In the coming months the goal is to commission an original artwork on the stone with accompanying text. Repatriation of the Tyndall stone was made possible through a generous $10,000 gift from the Donner Canadian Foundation.

Reclaimed wood from the RecPlex site is being used on a feature wall on the main floor vestibule, in three benches along the Spence Street Promenade, and in guardrails. Other unique design features are the glass wall onto Spence Street which engages community and animates the area and the cut out soccer ball windows overlooking Young Street.


The University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corporation is the project developer; the architectural firm is Number TEN Architectural Group; the project manager is Resolve Group Inc.; construction manager is PCL Construction Canada Inc; and tree salvaging and recycling is by Wood Anchor.

The RecPlex is energy efficient with a targeted Gold LEED Certification. Notable energy efficient features of The United Health & RecPlex include: high levels of roof and wall insulation; a bright white roof that reflects solar radiation (reducing the “heat island effect” which threatens urban areas with above average temperatures during summer months); a heat recovery ventilation system; high efficiency, condensing boilers; energy-efficient LED light fixtures with occupancy controls; low-flow plumbing fixtures; and an integrated building management system to further enhance energy and cost savings. Energy consumption will be visible to visitors through an digital screen displayed within the complex, known as the Energy Dashboard.

To date, UWinnipeg has obtained LEED Silver status from the Canada Green Building Council for two new buildings: McFeetors Hall: Great-West Life Student Residence and The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association Daycare Centre. UWinnipeg is currently seeking LEED Silver certification for the Buhler Centre and LEED Gold Certification Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex.

In the past “decade of transformation”, The University of Winnipeg has attracted $217 million in new development to Winnipeg’s downtown and West End neighbourhoods and doubled enrollment to 10,000 students.

The UNITED Health & RecPlex construction began in the fall 2012 and will be completed on schedule and on budget.  It will be open for student and community use in September 2014.

Find out more about research taking place inside the Gupta Faculty of Kinesiology and Applied Health.

Diane Poulin, Senior Communications Specialist, The University of Winnipeg
P: 204.988.7135, E: