Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games breathe life into university development plans

Let the building begin.

Now that Toronto has won its bid to host the Pan Am and Para Pan games in 2015, the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus has got the green light to go ahead with plans to construct athletic facilities in East Scarborough, including a new aquatic centre.

“We can now look at something that is beyond what we even dreamed of,” said UTSC principal Franco J. Vaccarino after the announcement on Nov. 6.

The local community will benefit from the new buildings even after the games with the world-class athletes are over, Vaccarino said.

“My dream is to have these high-end athletes swimming shoulder to shoulder with students and community members.

Vaccarino said he was unsure even up to the final moments before the decision was announced what his reaction would be.

“It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster because there was always the possibility that these things were not going to go forward and it certainly wasn’t a slam dunk,” Vaccarino said.

When the announcement was broadcast on Friday, only about a dozen people were present at Rex’s Den eatery at the school, where festivities were to take place.

However, the news spread very quickly throughout the rest of University of Toronto that Toronto had won on the first ballot, with much hugging and celebration ensuing.

“The people are enormously proud and excited that the University of Toronto Scarborough has been chosen to be the site of one of the main locales for the games,” Vaccarino said.

But the games will not be constrained to the school. They also mean a lot to the eastern part of Toronto, including Markham, Pickering and east Scarborough.

Plans for development were already in place before the games bid, but the games present an opportunity for the university to act much more quickly.

“I am thrilled and overwhelmed, but we now have to step up the level of work,” said Andrew Arifuzzaman, UTSC chief strategy officer.

Andrew Arifuzzaman, chief strategy officer for UTSC, talks about how plans for the university to get involved with the Pan Am games came about.


The planned facilities are expected to encourage athletes to enrol in the university. “It will allow the best athletes in the country to train here and get an education concurrently,” Arifuzzaman said.

The games will also have an impact on the city’s development plans for this area.

Councillor Paul Ainslie said he hopes the city makes the right decisions to ensure a successful event and part of the city’s obligation is to provide transportation for people to and from Scarborough.

Ainslie said he wants to ensure that the planned Light-Rail Transit in Scarborough is put to good long-term use.

“Will the line turn in to an under-used white elephant after the games are over?” he asked. “The money saved by alternative methods could be used to increase bus usage in the area, as well as repair roads for motor vehicle use.”

He said he is also concerned about continued use of venues built for the games.

“The money to pay for the games comes from the taxpayer’s pocket, no matter what level of government is involved.  It should be spent wisely and practically to make the games a success, and to see facilities properly used afterwards,” Ainslie said.