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One major step closer to a state-of-the-art athletics complex at UTSC

An Olympic acquatics centre, depicted in this artistic rendering, is a key component of the $170 million sports complex proposed for UTSC if Toronto wins its bid to host the 2015 Pan Am Games.

by Laura Matthews

The Province of Ontario has confirmed its intentions to support a new, $170.5 million, world-class athletics complex at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus, as part of the City of Toronto’s bid to host the 2015 Pan American Games.

If the City of Toronto is selected as the host city for the 2015 Pan American Games, UTSC will participate in a partnership to build a world-class athletics complex at the UTSC campus. The City of Toronto is one of three finalists, competing with Bogotá, Columbia and Lima, Peru to host the Games. The selection of the host city is expected to be announced in the fall of 2009.

“This opportunity is very exciting for UTSC,” says Principal Franco Vaccarino. “Our campus would be a major venue for this international competition, but much more important, we would create an enormous legacy for our students and our community, and become a centre of gravity for athletics in our province.”

Through this partnership, the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada would jointly contribute 56% of the costs of the facility, with the City of Toronto and the University of Toronto, each contributing 22%.

The University’s interest in this project is driven by a long-standing need to improve its facilities. For some time, the University has been working with the City of Toronto to develop a joint athletics and aquatics facility that would provide high quality sports and recreation facilities for the local student community, the broader GTA, and other sports constituents. The potential to partner further with the provincial and federal governments provides the catalyst to realize UTSC’s goals, while also creating a facility that is of world-class standard.

“This new facility will become an enormous point of pride for our students and our community,” added Vaccarino. “Even if the bid is unsuccessful, we will work toward creating core elements of this proposal. It is important that we all work together as partners to keep building on this momentum.”

A working group -- comprised of representatives from the student athletic association (SCAA), the student union (SCSU), alumni, and administrators from the athletics department -- canvassed UTSC students throughout this past fall.

“This is great news. We have reached a point where [a new facility] is totally necessary for the quality of student life that we would like to uphold at UTSC,” says John Kapageridis, a fourth-year psychology and integrative biology student and member of the working group. “Everyone we have spoken to, everyone who I’ve interviewed, agreed that we have outgrown our current athletic facility and that we need a new and improved one.”

The proposal for the field house complex would meet University requirements with a gymnasium and multipurpose program area, and fitness and training facilities that would support both recreation and high-performance training. While details are yet to be fully developed, the list of requirements includes a running track, climbing wall, squash courts, and food services.

As a result of the Pan American Games opportunity, the facilities proposal has expanded to include an aquatics facility featuring two Olympic-sized, 52-metre pools (one for competition and the other for warm-up), a 10-metre dive tank, and spectator seating. The funding required to outfit the facilities to the standards of international competition is provided through the federal and provincial governments. Through this partnership, UTSC students will have access to state-of the-art facilities which would not have been possible otherwise.

According to Lou Michael Tacorda, who has been part of the working group since 2007 and now participates as a member of the alumni, “It would be something wonderful for our campus and the community. The facility will let us run more community programming, in addition to more programs for our athletics departments – not just intramural but recreational. This campus has a history where a lot of our resources and buildings are here as a result of previous students that have pushed for them -- from the student centre and library, to the residences which were built years ago. Here is another contribution that students can make to our campus.”

Over the coming months, students will be asked to help develop plans and define a partnership model for supporting the facility, which would be finalized through a student referendum. Further information will be provided through the Dean of Student Affairs, Tom Nowers. A website dedicated to the athletics complex will also be launched to keep the community abreast of all developments.

“The opportunity to bring this calibre of facility to UTSC and to our region will benefit many generations of students and has the potential to contribute to long-term regional prosperity,” added Vaccarino. “The project provides the momentum we have long needed to address our substandard athletic facilities. Student surveys and focus groups, as well as external reviews, have underscored that we have an urgent need to improve our athletic facilities, which were designed for 6,000 fewer students than we have on campus today.”

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