Whether Toronto wins or loses its bid to host the Pan American Games in 2015, the University of Toronto at Scarborough will gain a state-of-the-art sports facility.
“This is a win-win situation because we need the facilities so badly,” Ward 44 Councillor Ron Moeser said. “The community is looking forward to the partnership and to using the facilities as well as the students at the university.”
The partnership includes federal, provincial and municipal governments as well as the University of Toronto. The athletic complex will have a gym, training centre, indoor track, two Olympic-size pools and a 10-metre diving tower.
The building will cost $170 million, with the city of Toronto and U of T each contributing $37.5 million and the rest coming from the provincial and federal governments.
“We badly, badly need these facilities. The ones we have are falling and the competitive athletes don’t have the resources and facilities to train,” Moeser said.
He added that the Highland Creek area still needs a community centre with athletic facilities and that the Pan Am bid will speed the construction of the centre.
Elise Tracey, president of the Scarborough Diving Club, also said facilities in Scarborough are old and rundown.
“There are a lot of swimming groups in Scarborough including the diving club but there are no platforms or Olympic-sized pools to practise,” Tracey said.
Tracey explained that many of her divers leave the club for Etobicoke or Toronto which offer access to platforms where they can train properly. Even though Scarborough is a growing city, it’s falling very behind and needs to get in line with other cities, she said. Tracey also thinks the city spends money on unnecessary studies to find if facilities are needed, but nothing actually gets done.
Moreover, Tracey said she can guarantee the aquatics centre will be used and never empty. Water sports, like synchronized swimming, water polo and diving, will benefit from the pools and the community would use them for lane swimming and swimming lessons.
“Kids used to have swimming lessons, but now they don’t know how to swim and that is why there are so many drowning,” Tracey said.
Moeser said that Scarborough has been promised an aquatic centre since the 1986 Pan American Games bid. However, Toronto did not host the 1990 games and the pools were never built.
The addition of the athletic complex will also accelerate construction on the light-rail transit line planned for Scarborough. Moeser says if Toronto gets the Pan Am Games there will be extra funding for the construction of the transit line.
“This project would also create a lot of jobs. So, it will not only benefit the athletes but it will help the community with the job situation, too,” Moeser said.
Moeser works closely with the University of Toronto and said the Scarborough campus wants to expand and build an aquatics facility and other infrastructure on Ellesmere and Military Trail.
“For two years the Scarborough campus has been planning to expand its athletic facilities,” said Heidi Calder, assistant director of U of T at Scarborough athletics. “If Toronto hosts the Pan Am Games the project will be bigger in scale because more levels of government are involved.”
Calder added even without the bid the university will go ahead with the construction. The university has asked students for feedback on the athletics centre proposal through surveys and information sessions.
The final bid will be submitted by the end of April and the host city will be chosen in November. Toronto is competing against Lima, Perú, and Bogotá, Colombia.
With any luck another city will be awarded the games and we, the taxpayers, won’t be burdened with paying for a games no one cares about. Honestly, when is the last time the Pan Am Games were even on TV? I can tell you where the last five Olympics have been but I couldn’t even name one Pan Am host city.
Where’s the other side to this story? Surely someone must not be in support of this bid? Maybe students who will surely be leveled with a build fee might have something to say about it when they’re asked to pony up another $200 a semester.