Conestoga news

March 27, 2024 11:40 AM

Transformation continues at Conestoga’s Waterloo campus

Conestoga’s Waterloo campus is in the midst of a major revitalization that will finish transforming the old high school into an inviting space both inside and out with a host of student amenities, plus the region’s first state-of-the-art esports arena.

Waterloo campus.jpg
Project manager Adam Merkley looks at the work underway on the central courtyard of the Waterloo campus.

The $47-million redevelopment of the University Avenue East building is being done in two phases, with the majority of the work in the first phase scheduled to take a year and wrap up in December 2024. The second phase will then begin with a completion date slated for April 2025, focusing on the esports arena.

The space became available to be reimagined and repurposed when trades programming was moved the new Conestoga Skilled Trades Campus on Reuter Drive in Cambridge, which is now in the second phase of its expansion to become the largest, most modern trades training facility in Canada.

At the Waterloo campus, the first phase will create new space for a host of purposes including several student support services such as a wellness centre, Indigenous Student Services, student commons and expanded bookstore as well as four classrooms. Other academic space will be realized as services move into this new part of the campus.

Esports are the focus of the second phase. An esports arena including box office and broadcast booth will be built alongside a 132-seat lecture hall theatre that can open to the esports space for events. This 10,000-square-foot venue will support the rapidly growing competitive gaming industry and enhance student experience, allowing for high-performance play, high-quality streaming and production, and innovation in gaming and simulation with top-tier equipment.

The thoughtful design carries on outside the building. The north driveway will be completely made over into a landscaped pedestrian and outdoor gathering space with a painted mural spanning the concrete retaining wall. The interior courtyard will also be rejuvenated to create a natural space that incorporates Indigenous elements such as a canopy that’s reminiscent of a traditional wampum belt, and the outdoor greenspace is connected directly with the Indigenous Services office.

“It’s going to be beautiful with lots of glass looking out on it as well, which is amazing,” said project manager Adam Merkley.

The current work underway is the site’s second major renovation. The campus originally opened in 2008 after the college took over the 1960s-era school and a $58-million transformation project started in 2016 that added 150,000 square feet of learning space in a state-of-the-art environment, expanding programming in culinary and hospitality management, applied computer science and information technology, and specialized programming for newcomers to Canada.

“This project will complete a second renovation of the building since it was acquired. We have to continually modify spaces to ensure we are providing the relevant training for the local work force,” said Tim Schill, vice-president of Facilities & Capital Development.

The current redevelopment will allow the expansion of computer science and information technology programs, specifically increased space for Cyber Security, Virtual Augmented Reality (VAR) and new programming in esports.

A smaller dedicated esports hub opened at the campus in November 2022. The space hosts regular programming, events and open lab time for students, along with providing access to hands-on learning for students in Conestoga’s new Esports Marketing and Event Management graduate certificate program launched in fall 2023. The venue will also support the competitive esports program started by Athletics & Recreation in 2020, integrating collegiate esports into traditional post-secondary athletics.

Community members are also welcome at the Waterloo campus where they can enjoy meals and excellent service at the full-service Bloom restaurant run by hospitality and culinary students. The new esports arena will establish the region as a renowned esports destination, hosting events and driving economic growth as Conestoga continues to work with Explore Waterloo Region through the Waterloo Region Esports Commission to attract top talent.

Sustainability is integral to the redesign. A geothermal system that will access an aquifer deep beneath the site through wells will significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions released by heating and cooling the building by saving on the natural gas needed for heating and electricity for cooling.

“There are many levels to this project. It just doesn’t tick one box. It ticks them all,” said Peter Thomson, director of Capital Development.

Schill echoed that sentiment about the scope of the renovation. “This project and many others being undertaken by Conestoga are another way Conestoga’s social and financial impact contributes to the communities we serve and demonstrates our commitment to carbon reduction.”

Construction at Conestoga

This is part of an ongoing series highlighting construction and renovation projects at Conestoga’s campuses. Continue reading about the college’s investments in the communities it serves here:

Construction summary

Guelph - Speedvale renovation

Downtown Kitchener - 1 Young

Milton - Steeles Avenue