Port Union Community Centre has growing pains at 25

When the Port Union Community Centre opened in 1984, there wasn’t much in terms of development south of Lawrence Avenue East, or along Port Union Road. Twenty-five years later, there is a lot more community for this centre to serve.

In fact, according to Zephine Wailoo, community recreation programmer at the centre, the population of the area has almost doubled in the past twenty-five years. The community centre has responded accordingly, with programs and events aimed at various segments of the Port Union community.

“We run the gamut from preschool to seniors’ programs,” Wailoo said.

Wailoo, who has been working at the Port Union centre since 1994, has seen a lot of change and growth in her time there.

“The population has almost doubled, ” she said. “I’ve seen the young ones grow up and I’ve seen a whole new group of young ones coming up and getting into our programs. The housing and development in the area is absolutely phenomenal. I believe we’re actually now bursting at the seams.”

The complexion of the community has changed, she said, and Jeff Forsyth agrees. The current president of Centennial Community and Recreation Association was also present at the opening ceremony for the centre’s 25th anniversary.

It’s also a more diverse population, Forsyth said, adding that younger people have been moving into the community from other areas and making this their home.
He credits the schools and parklands in the area for drawing younger families. He said that the centre is an integral part of the Port Union community.

“Much of what we do in the community with regards to events are held in this centre. Whenever we have an event in the community we always think of having it right here.”

Beyond this function, Wailoo adds that the community centre, in collaboration with Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate Institute, provides community service hours for students of the school through volunteering at the various programs and events that go on throughout the year at the community centre.

“A lot of students need their community service hours…and we reward them with a number of hours depending on the activity,” she said.

As such an important part of a rapidly growing community, it should come as no surprise that, on the 25th anniversary of its opening, there are calls for an expansion of the centre.

“We absolutely need a new community centre. It’s too small, the community has outgrown it,” said Wailoo. “We did do a feasibility study [which] did show that we deserve a centre about twice the size of what we have now.”

A larger fitness centre, an indoor running track for running enthusiasts to use in the winter, and a swimming pool are among other sought developments. Dan McTeague, MP for Pickering-Scarborough East, agrees both the centre and the area itself could benefit from more development.