Pan Am venues will bring opportunities to next generation

When Canadian Olympic hurdler Priscilla Lopes-Schliep was growing up, Toronto had a severe lack of sporting infrastructure.

That situation has changed now that Toronto has won the bid to host the 2015 Pan American Games.

The winning city was announced Friday and supporters say holding the events will bring countless opportunities for the next generation of Canadian athletes to excel in their sport.

“This is going to help bring more opportunity for the younger generation,” said Olympic hurdler Priscilla Lopes Schliep, just before the announcement. “Once the Games have taken place and the facilities are there, it’s going to enrich those kids and help with other events.

“I wish we had more facilities when I was growing up because we were kind of limited to certain places to go and work out.”

Athletes from all over the world will compete in 50 venues in 17 municipalities across the Golden Horseshoe.

Potential projects in the bid include a Pan American stadium and velodrome to be built in Hamilton. The stadium will be able to seat 15,000 spectators.

A Pan American aquatic centre, two new 50-metre, 10-lane pools, and the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario, are also slated for the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty noted Canada’s struggle to compete on the world stage and believes the new venues will help change that trend.

“On a per capita basis in terms of competitive athletes on a national level, we have fallen considerably behind,” he said.

“What I really want to do is extend the net a lot wider so that more kids from all backgrounds who have the talent and the desire will have the opportunity to participate in amateur sport.”

The Toronto games will include $1.4 billion going towards sporting infrastructure. Along with the construction of six new facilities, existing venues such as the pools at the Etobicoke Olympium and the track at Centennial Park will be refurbished.

“The benefit to our athletes would be immeasurable,” said rhythmic gymnastic Alexandra Orlando. “I think this is the largest investment in sport infrastructure this province ever will have seen.

“Not only will it be putting up new facilities, which is incredible, but it also will be renovating existing ones.”

But it’s not just athletes who will benefit from the new venues. The construction of the aquatic centre will speed up the building of the TTC’s Scarborough-Malvern Light Rapid Transit Line so it is expected to be ready in time for the Games.

Also included in the bid proposal is $1 billion athletes village in the West Don Lands, expected to become a mixed-income neighbourhood after 2015.

Existing venues in Toronto’s plan include the Rogers Centre, BMO Field, the Air Canada Centre, Rexall Tennis Centre, Copps Coliseum, Fletcher’s Field, the Hershey Centre, Ricoh Coliseum, Ryerson University, Roy Thomson Hall, and the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta.

The venues will be separated into three Games Zones. The Central Zone will consist of facilities in Toronto, Brampton, Markham, and Mississauga.

Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, and Oshawa will make up the East Zone, and the West Zone will include Burlington and Hamilton.