A health services nurse fills a syringe in the vaccination clinic in the old gym on Jan. 27. Photo credit: Leslie Bader

While the Jack Doyle Athletics and Recreation Centre opened for business again on Jan. 31, the future purpose of the old gym in A-building is still unfolding.

Algonquin College opened The Ron Port Athletic Facility in 1996, which is named after a long-time coach and athletics director. Port retired at the age of 70 after spending 49 years promoting sports and fitness at the college.

On Sept. 27, 2021, the Algonquin Students’ Association pulled the last of the mats from the old gym, and said goodbye to the space that was home to decades of collegiate sports. The neat and proud rows of championship pennants had been taken down, the bleachers tucked up to the wall for good.

The gym was set up for a vaccination clinic on Jan. 27, this time hosted by Algonquin College Health Services.

On the covered gym floor, rows of empty chairs waited for their patients to arrive via the heavy steel outside doors. A lone nurse sat at the entrance, filling one syringe after another with vaccine doses before greeting the first client.

The gym has been used for many purposes in the past. Anne Khalil is the manager of student recruitment for Algonquin College. Before the pandemic arose, Khalil and her staff used the gym to mount Connections, an annual spring open-house for prospective students in grades 8 to 11.

Over three days, young learners were able to get a taste of different college programs by visiting interactive booths and talking with professors and current students. Khalil said she would “certainly miss the rewards of the event.”

“The energy in that room – the sound, the excitement – you see, it’s our future,” said Denise Owca, move coordinator for Algonquin College.

Owca oversees a team of people who do the physical setup and logistics for events at the school. She and Khalil work as a team to mount productions which are months in the making. They consider traffic flow, table positions and deal with any issues that arise.

“We need one to two days before an event to prepare the space,” said Owca. “It takes four hours just to cover the floor.

“But only 15 minutes to do a tear down,” said Khalil. “And that includes tables, chairs and signage.”

Connections will not happen this year due to current pandemic restrictions. When asked if there were any future plans for the gym, both Khalil and Owca said they did not know of any major changes, but the space will continue to be available to host events.