Pan Am swimming facility would build aquatic profile

Amateur swimming officials say the Pan American Games pool proposed for the Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto will inspire athletes and casual swimmers alike.

The 2015 Pan Am Games will be one of largest multi-sporting event in Canadian history and Scarborough could be at the centre of aquatic activities with a top-notch sports facility.

Ian Troop, the CEO of Pan Am Toronto 2015, says the planned competition pool comes at the right time since the city is short on pool infrastructure.

“Getting aquatics back into the city is crucial. Historically, aquatics have done well,” he said. “Aquatics will be a place for people with goals to aim and achieve.”

Byron MacDonald, the head coach of the U of T varsity team and Toronto All-Stars, said the surrounding community will benefit in several ways from having extra water space.

“First, it will generate a larger interest in swimming in the entire GTA and most specifically Scarborough,” he said. “That will generate more swimmers and from a larger pool of said swimmers, we will end up with better competitive swimmers.”

In theory, after the Games, the varsity team and the Toronto Swim Club would have a place to train regularly and host intramural sports. MacDonald also suggested the pool can benefit the general public.

“Water is also important for youngsters. If you learn at an early age and keep at it, you will avoid drowning in the future,” MacDonald said. “It will also benefit older people that cannot do other activities due to joint problems and other ails.”

Swim Canada, Swim Ontario and Sport Canada have joined the U of T in their own version of Own the Podium, the campaign developed during the 2010 Winter Olympics to win more medals than ever before. John Rogers, a high performance Australian coach, was hired last year to help produce Olympic athletes and better Canadian results during the Pan Am Games.

At the 2008 Olympics, Rogers coached Stephanie Rice who won two gold medals. She defeated Katie Hoff, the favoured U.S. swimmer in one competition.

MacDonald says the National Centre for Swimming might train at the proposed site at Morningside Avenue and Military Trail, and that would attract top swimmers and inspire enrollment for U of T.

“Extra funding will come for elite activities and that will spur an increase in focus on swimming, more excitement and more buy-in for everyone. We are already seeing that,” MacDonald said.

He said other provincial governments have been funding elite swimmers for years, but Ontario has lagged behind.

The final pool master plan is due from Andrew Arifuzzaman, the U of T’s chief strategy officer in November.