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New GTI to be bigger, better, more accessible

Work underway for new research facility at University of Guelph

February 8, 2017  By Turf and Rec Staff

The Guelph Turfgrass Institute (GTI), a recognized world-class hub for turfgrass education, research, extension and professional development, will soon have a new home on the University of Guelph campus.

The GTI is the only of its kind in Canada, officially established by the senate of the University of Guelph in 1987 as a partnership between the Ontario government, the university and the private sector. The GTI was built on the Guelph Research Station, owned by the Province of Ontario, and the Ontario Turfgrass Research Foundation enabled the current GTI facility to become a reality with the sod-turning ceremony for the current facility happening in 1991. The G.M. Frost Research and Information Centre was completed in 1993 as a focal point for the research station. The building was named in honour of Mac and Beth Frost, who spearheaded fundraising with a significant donation to the project.

The mandate of the GTI is to conduct research, provide education, and deliver information on turfgrass production and management to members of the Canadian turfgrass industry. The current GTI is a partnership between the University of Guelph, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and various groups within the turfgrass industry.

The GTI is home to the University of Guelph’s annual turf manager’s short course, and is used for many associate diploma-in-turfgrass management activities and functions. The GTI is also home to three professional associations—the Ontario Turfgrass Research Foundation (OTRF), the Ontario Golf Superintendents’ Association (OGSA) and Sports Turf Canada (STC). These long-standing and important relationships will continue to be maintained moving forward, and the new GTI will continue to provide a home for its association partners.

A new location for the GTI
The Province of Ontario owns the Guelph Research Station, the current location of the GTI. With its lease expiring, and the City of Guelph re-zoning the land for development, the government has identified the land for development. To enable this, the province is supporting moving the GTI and the other research being conducted at the Guelph Research Station to new locations.

The new GTI will be located on University of Guelph land, at the northwest corner of the arboretum property, adjacent to the golf course at Cutten Fields. In addition, some land will also be developed at the Elora Research Station for large-scale GTI projects.

Funding for the move
The Ontario government has committed substantive funds for the project and is following a matching model it has used for other recent University of Guelph infrastructure projects, requiring 20 per cent matching funds for the project. A fundraising committee has been created, and a campaign to raise the 20 per cent matching funds (cash and in-kind) has commenced.

Close to 30 years ago, turfgrass industry leaders raised funds to establish the existing GTI. Since that time, the GTI has helped to establish the University of Guelph as a globally recognized turfgrass research centre and has supported the turfgrass industry through graduate student and service research discoveries, outreach, education, professional development and turfgrass information. The requirement to move the GTI is an opportunity to re-vision the infrastructure requirements and to build a GTI 2.0. The vision for the new GTI is to build a research, teaching and outreach facility that will continue to enable the University of Guelph to be a globally recognized centre for turfgrass research and expertise.

The new GTI will be a bigger, better and a more accessible hub for turfgrass innovation, with direct benefits to the turfgrass industry. Service research studies are important components of the research program at GTI, with emphasis on testing sustainable, lower-risk alternative products and providing information on tools for turf managers as its benchmark. The new grounds and buildings will also showcase innovations in turfgrass and urban landscape industries to educate both students and the general public. The current fundraising effort will evolve the GTI to a new level of excellence.

The new GTI and G.M. Frost Centre
Site plans have been developed with input from turfgrass researchers and industry partners, and development and research plot construction has already begun. The site plan includes a new G.M. Frost Centre, a turf maintenance facility, turfgrass research plots and greens, trial gardens, an irrigation pond and two storm water retention ponds.

The project has been broken into two phases:

  • Research plot construction
  • Frost Centre construction, maintenance facility construction, parking area construction and landscape finishing
  • Phase one is active and progressing well. Site development for phase one began in late September 2016 with site surveying and installation of silt and tree protection fencing. By the end of October, earthmoving operations were well under way to facilitate grading, drainage installation and research plot construction.

Due to the excellent construction weather in late fall, at the time of writing this update (mid-December) major earthmoving operations were near completion, and drainage installation in the greens research areas and preliminary shaping and excavation of the irrigation pond area had commenced.

The research plot construction process is scheduled to be completed in spring 2017 with seeding and turf grow-in maintenance
to follow.

Phase two has entered the planning process with the trajectory to achieve municipal approvals in 2017. Groundbreaking on the new G.M. Frost Centre building and maintenance facility are scheduled to follow pending municipal approvals.

The proposed Frost Centre building will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design® (LEED) certified and feature many advanced green building technologies. Green technologies such as green roofs, rainwater harvesting, ecologically friendly building materials and associated features will be prevalent in the new facilities.

Helping build the new Frost Centre
In recognition of the Frost family-founding donation, the new facility will also bear the G.M. Frost Centre name. However, a full range of other prominent naming opportunities are available both in the new Frost Centre and outdoor research areas. The new Frost Centre will feature two technologically advanced classrooms, a larger research laboratory and student office space, a state-of-the-art boardroom for industry meetings, and enhanced partner association offices. The new facility will also be in close proximity to University of Guelph main campus, enhancing overall accessibility for students and turfgrass events.  

Several lead donors have already lent their support to the project, including the Ray and Shelley Chyc Family Foundation, Landscape Ontario, Marc Vanden Bussche of Vanden Bussche Irrigation & Equipment, Bayer CropScience, the DeCorso Family from Victoria Park East and Victoria Park Valley, and Turf Care Products Canada.

“These individuals and industry partners have generously supported the GTI vision without hesitation,” said Dr. Rene Van Acker, dean of the Ontario Agricultural College. “We are very grateful for their commitment to the future and for the momentum they’ve created for the project.”

Individuals and industry members interested in supporting the new GTI and Frost Centre are encouraged to consider making a donation to the effort. A number of different levels of giving are possible, and every donation is considered important as the facility moves forward into this new era.

Giving levels:

  • Leader: $200,000+
  • Patron: $100,000-199,000
  • Supporter: $25,000-$99,000
  • Sponsor: $10,000-24,999
  • Friend: up to $9,999

“Support what will become a new standard of excellence in Canada, and see your giving go farther,” the GTI fundraising team states. “Gifts of all sizes are powerful as the University of Guelph works within the Government of Ontario’s 80:20 matching funding formula. For example, a donation of $10,000 becomes a donation of $50,000. Every donation is important in helping reach the $3 million fundraising goal. All donations can be pledged over a period of time in order to support the GTI and the research, outreach and education it provides to students and
the industry.”

For more information, contact any of the following:

  • Primary fundraising team: Doug Hubble, fundraising chair, (519) 546-0903; Rene Van Acker, dean, OAC, (519) 824-4120 x 53533 or vanacker@uoguelph.ca.
  • Additional fundraising team members include Amy Atkinson, Ron Craig, David DeCorso, Shawn Hunter, Corey Janzen, Dr. Eric Lyons, Ron Schiedel, Dr. Clay Switzer and John Watson.    

For general inquiries and to stay up to date on the fundraising campaign, project progress and GTI news, contact John Watson, GTI communications, at (519) 824-4120 x 52784 or watson01@uoguelph.ca

Progress can also be followed at guelphturfgrass.ca, facebook.com/GuelphTurf or twitter.com/GuelphTurf. –

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