New university sports complex will include carpark for 900 vehicles

The sports complex will include an eight-lane athletics track, a modern pitch, stadium seating and an indoor running track, along with an underground carpark for 900 vehicles

Side view of the proposed complex showing the underground car park and indoors athletics track
Side view of the proposed complex showing the underground car park and indoors athletics track

An underground carpark for 900 vehicles will be built at university as part of a planned sports complex that will replace the existing dusty football ground.

The carpark has been included in the plans after the Planning Authority last year overruled the local plan and asked the university to include parking facilities in the project. The proposed carpark will be shared with the local community.

The sports complex will include an eight-lane athletics track, a modern pitch, stadium seating and an indoor running track.

The development comes on the back of controversy after the university last week opened up the existing arid football ground for parking as a temporary measure.

The parking area next to the library will be transformed into engineering labs and offices for post-doctoral research
The parking area next to the library will be transformed into engineering labs and offices for post-doctoral research

Athletes who use the university running track and environmentalists criticised the decision, lamenting it was symptomatic of the country’s love of cars.

But pro-Rector Carmen Sammut defended the decision and insisted measures were being taken to encourage more students and staff to use alternative modes of transport.

“The decision to allow cars to park on the ground was necessary to mitigate the loss of parking spots as a result of construction work in various parts of the campus,” she said.

An artist’s impression of how the university sports complex will look. The complex will include an underground car park that will also be used by the community
An artist’s impression of how the university sports complex will look. The complex will include an underground car park that will also be used by the community

There are at least three construction projects going on at university, including a new building that will house several faculties and institutes, Sammut explained.

Other projects include engineering labs and a student residence.

She insisted that measures were taken to ensure the safety of athletes using the track, including the presence of a university staff member.

“I understand their concern but this is only temporary because in any case, the track and ground will be closed off in a few months’ time when work starts on the new sports complex,” Sammut said.

She insisted critics of the decision expected students and staff to suddenly stop using their car, an impractical solution for the 15,000 people who study and work at university.

Side view of the proposed complex showing the underground car park and indoors athletics track
Side view of the proposed complex showing the underground car park and indoors athletics track

“It is unfair to portray students as being completely car-dependent because the public transport service to the area has very high patronage but it would be unrealistic to envisage a situation with no cars coming to university,” Sammut said.

She also took umbrage at the criticism levelled towards the Kunsill Studenti Universitarji (KSU) for accepting the parking solution.

“The KSU was unfairly targeted when it has been working on a transport strategy to encourage people to use public transport, cycle and carpool,” Sammut said.

Carla Galea, president of the student council, said the organisation had set up a park-and-ride facility in Pembroke in collaboration with Malta Public Transport to encourage students and staff in the area to get a direct shuttle to university and leave their cars behind.

“The KSU and the university will now also be subsidising the cost of 1,000 free monthly passes for those who use the park-and-ride facility,” Galea added.

But the student council is now in discussions with Transport Malta to set up two more park-and-ride facilities at Ta’ Qali and Marsa.

“We have a car park next to the quadrangle that is specifically reserved for those who carpool and we have allocated six spots for the shared electric car service GoTo,” Galea said.

The KSU-administered parking fund also subsidises the purchase of bicycles, e-bikes, motorcycles and electric vehicles, she added.

And the KSU will shortly be announcing a new app with maps outlining safe cycle routes from different towns across Malta to the university.

“Given that parking spots were lost because of the construction work going on in the large car park, we asked for a temporary solution but it is not as if the KSU has done nothing to reduce car dependency. It is unrealistic to expect people to suddenly change their behaviour and leave their car at home. It takes time and there will always be those who have to use their car. This is a national issue and not just a university problem,” Galea said.

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