UAlberta opens new PAW Centre, celebrates $10M donation

State-of-the-art fitness facility made possible by partnership of students, university and generous supporters.


(Edmonton) With one of the largest donations in its history, the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation is opening one of the most modern fitness facilities on any post-secondary campus in North America.

The new Physical Activity and Wellness (PAW) Centre is made possible in part by a generous $10-million donation from Dick​ ('74 BA, '75 Law) and Carol Wilson​ ('74 BEd​). U of A students, staff and visitors can now enjoy the first new fitness facility to open on North Campus since 1983. The 17,000-square-metre PAW Centre includes a social street, student lounges, a two-storey climbing facility and a fitness centre on two floors.

In honour of this transformative gift, the climbing facility will be named the Wilson Climbing Centre and the fitness centre will be named the Hanson Fitness and Lifestyle Centre, in honour of Carol Wilson’s father.

"I am thrilled with the completion of the PAW Centre—it is important that we are able to provide state-of-the-art health and wellness facilities to serve not only our students, faculty and staff, but also surrounding communities," said President Indira Samarasekera. “Thank you to our generous supporters for their visionary leadership. They are critical to the future of our university.”

“This is an important new addition to the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation,” said Dean Kerry Mummery. “It will allow the university to be one of the leading supporters of the climbing community in Alberta, and provides new teaching and learning resources which are particularly well aligned with our wellness focus.”

“We feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to help students for years to come,” said Dick Wilson. “Both Carol and I gained so much from our time at the University of Alberta that giving back to support others is the right thing to do.”

The Alberta Bear, a bronze statue created by Canadian artist Cathryn Jenkins, was also unveiled as part of the grand opening celebration. The life-sized sculpture, located in front of the Wilson Climbing Centre windows, was commissioned to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, and reflects the University of Alberta, the province and the natural heritage of the mountains and prairie regions.


Located on a prominent corner of the North Campus, the PAW Centre is a gateway showpiece for the university. In addition to the new building, existing buildings were renovated to accommodate new program space. The new and old buildings are connected by an atrium-like Social Street, incorporating student services to activate and energize a pedestrian thoroughfare that will serve as a major access point to the campus.

As with many buildings on the university campus, the PAW Centre, led by Group 2 Architecture Interior Design Ltd. and Clark Builders, was constructed with sustainability in mind. To meet its Green Globes target rating of four globes (a LEED Silver equivalent), the centre incorporates sustainable features such as LED lighting, solar panels and natural, recycled, low-emitting healthy materials for building finishes. Sunlight is controlled through 22 KW solar PV solar shades and high-performance glazing on the windows. Solar thermal heating for domestic water and the pool are provided by 90 KW solar panels on the PAW Centre roof.

Facility and program access and use are made possible for students through the Athletic and Recreation fees and a new capital construction fee paid by U of A students. Additional funding for the PAW Centre came from the Students’ Union, the Graduate Students’ Association, the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, the University of Alberta and the Government of Alberta.

Watch a time-lapse video of PAW Centre construction