Classes started Wednesday at Dawson College, and the school has a sporting solution to its overcrowding problem: place students in the Pepsi Forum.

The former home of the Canadiens on Ste. Catherine St. between Atwater Ave. and Lambert Closse St. is now hosting lessons on sociology and other academic subjects.

The expansion is thanks to a three per cent spike in enrolment in CEGEPs across Montreal. For Dawson, that translates to 300 more students, forcing the creation of nine classrooms and two social science laboratories.

The last-minute move meant windowless classrooms still smelled of fresh paint for Wednesday's classes, and desks were only brought in on Tuesday.

Sociology teacher Anna-Liisa Aunio had a few warnings for students who would be tempted to play hooky while walking from the main campus to her classroom.

"I told the students at the first class, don't get lost on the way up. Don't go to the movies, don't find your way to the bar, which is right next door or the bowling alley," said Aunio.

The building's manager, Andre Jude, said he's pleased with the expansion's potential to increase sales at the Pepsi Forum.

"Of course when you increase traffic, you increase visibility, so the potential of your businesses getting more customers is obviously enhanced," he said.

Population bulge

The province provided Dawson College with additional funding this summer to acquire the nine extra classrooms after it rejected hundreds of qualified applicants.

The space crunch is due to a population bulge which is expected to last until 2013. Dawson has signed on to remain at the Forum for three to five years.

School officials say if the program works, it may permanently expand to the Forum to teach adult education classes.

"Of the demographic shift that we're in, there's a demand for supply to the workforce, so continuing education will be called to play a greater role," said Richard Filion, Dawson College's director general.