It was designed by the Seattle architect Minoru Yamasaki—whose lasting fame lies in his design for the original World Trade Center in New York and whose lasting infamy lies in the now demolished and universally reviled Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St Louis, Missouri—in tandem with his plans for the Regina Campus of the University of Saskatchewan. His stark modernist plan for the University, which was from the outset a matter of contention as to its suitability for the featureless Regina plain, is evident in the first three buildings of the campus, the laboratory, classroom and library buildings, but the laboratory and library buildings have been substantially altered and the original master plan for the campus has been revamped over time.
The name "Wascana" is derived from the Cree word Oscana meaning "pile of bones" in reference to the plains bison bones scattered around Wascana Creek before the area was populated by non-indigenous people.
When it was decided to establish a new Regina campus for the University of Saskatchewan, Minoru Yamasaki, later the architect of the original World Trade Center in New York, was commissioned in 1961 to prepare a 100-year master plan for Wascana Centre including the new university complex. Yamasaki's vision has largely been adhered to, notwithstanding some controversy over the years as to the suitability of his stark modernist buildings for the featureless Regina plain.
Originally created in 1883 by damming Wascana Creek between Angus and Rae Streets, 1½ blocks west of the present Albert Street dam and bridge, to provide a "stock watering hole" — the rolling stock of the CPR, that is — Wascana Lake was soon turned to recreational use when in the spring of 1884 the reservoir filled and Reginans took to the lake for sailing and canoeing. Its size was slightly reduced in 1908 when a new dam and bridge were constructed in their present location.
The lake continued for a time to be used as a domestic water supply and for stock watering; it also supplied the new legislative building. A longer term effect resulted, however, when lake water was used to cool machinery in the power plant (now the Powerhouse Museum) that was built in the eastern sector. Heated water returned to the lake, causing that sector to remain ice-free through the winter, and several species of migratory birds made it their year-round habitat. The eastern sector of the lake is now a waterfowl sanctuary.
Wascana Lake was drained and deepened in the 1930s as part of a government relief project; 2,100 men widened and dredged the lake bed and created two islands using only hand tools and horse-drawn wagons. During the fall and winter of 2003-2004, Wascana Lake was again drained and dredged to deepen it by about an average of 5 metres (16 ft), primarily to decrease aquatic weed growth, improve water quality, and allow more competitive and recreational canoeing and paddling during the summer months. The Big Dig, as it was known locally, also included the addition of a new island and general re-landscaping around the lake. The dredging was completed in mid-March 2004, in time for the spring runoff. The lake includes several small islands: Willow Island, Spruce Island, Pine Island, Goose Island and Tern island.
In the summer of 2006 Wascana Racing Canoe Club and Wascana Centre hosted the 2006 Canadian Sprint Canoe/Kayak National Championships.
Wascana Centre promotional literature touts it as being larger than New York City's Central Park at 843 acres (3.4 km2) and Vancouver's Stanley Park at 1,000 acres (4 km2) and as the fourth largest urban park in Canada.
Wascana Centre contains:
Immediately to the east of the originally Methodist Regina College complex is the former Anglican Diocesan property, which has not, as events have unfolded, been absorbed into the Wascana Centre but is being commercially developed with considerable strictures as to maintaining the historic ecclesiastical structures and will continue to contain substantial green spaces immediately adjacent to the northern sector of Wascana Centre. It contains the former St Chad's College (originally an Anglican theological seminary, which formally vacated to the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon), the Qu'Appelle Diocesan School (the Anglican Sisters of St John the Divine maintained St Chad's private girls' school on the premises until 1970 but the Anglican Church, like the United Church, no longer maintains any secondary or tertiary education involvement in Regina); the former Bishops Court and assorted ecclesiastical structures. The entire property was sold to the provincial Crown in the 1970s and has now been further sold for residential and commercial development. It remains to be seen what use, if any, the historic buildings will be put to.
The Centre also contains attractive venues for cross country skiing and skating during winter and tennis, bicycling, running, and non-motorized water sports during summer. Much of the lake-bottom dredgings from the deepening of Wascana Lake were added to an existing artificial hill on the north shore of the eastern sector of the lake, across from the new campus of the University, creating a much larger winter toboggan run.
When Regina hosted the 2005 Canada Summer Games, the majority of the event venues as well as the athlete accommodations were located within the boundaries of the Wascana Centre.
Saskatchewan celebrates National Aboriginal Day.(Saskatchewan Sage: Special Section providing news from Saskatchewan)
Aug 01, 2007; [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] Caption: Recreating the arrival of the early treaty parties by voyageur canoe, Lac La Ronge Indian Band...