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September 26, 2002 An eye on the horizon for new athletics facilities



by John Austen

Working 12-hour days, often seven days a week, doesn't bother Les Lawton. In fact, he thrives on it.

Concordia's interim director of recreation and athletics stepped in last year when Harry Zarins left. He’s also in his 21st year of coaching the women's hockey team at Concordia. His .700 winning percentage makes him the winningest coach in the history of Canadian women's hockey.

“It's certainly a challenge to do both jobs well, but I love it and I'm up to the challenge,” Lawton told the Thursday Report. “It's a little overwhelming at times, but we have a great staff that makes the job easier.”

A Future Search committee of between 50 and 70 people will evaluate the needs and wants of the department before naming a full-time director of recreation and athletics next spring.

Lawton was asked if he wants the job. “I will do the best I can, and if the committee is satisfied then we'll talk about it,” he replied. “I really don't want to to have to give up my coaching, though.

“Our job is to serve the athletes at both the varsity and recreational levels,” he continued. “We have to do the little things right and offer good service to make up for our lack of facilities.

“[The Loyola Athletics Complex] may have been state-of-the-art when it was first built, but it has become antiquated. We serve 12 times as many students at the university now. That's why we are in the process of updating the facilities.”

Improvements at Loyola

More than $12 million has been earmarked for improvements to the complex and its surrounding fields. Plans include a double gymnasium, pool and fitness area, plus an artificial turf and new lights for the football field.

“All this has been discussed for a while, Lawton said. “The football surface and lights will be in place for next spring and hopefully everything else will be completed within five years.

“Right now we just have to do the best with what we have,” he continued. “I think there are some people who don't take our department as seriously as they should. We're not just fun and games here. We have serious student athletes. They represent the colours of the school with pride.”

Lawton's short-term goals include getting the students and surrounding community more involved in supporting the varsity athletes.

“We'll have some very competitive teams this fall and winter, so it would be nice to have lots of fans in the stands,” he said. “It's funny. We'll get more than 2,000 to come out and watch a football game but not all that many of them are Concordia students. We'll have to find ways to get the student body out.”