U of T will host several events for the Pan American Games in 2015, which means new athletic facilities at UTSC and upgrades for St. George campus. UTSC’s North Campus will be the site of a $170-million sports complex, including gymnasiums, fitness and training facilities, two Olympic-sized pools, and a 10-metre diving tank. The downtown campus will get turf upgrades at Varsity Stadium and a double artificial turf field on the back campus. Scarborough will also play host to the new Scarborough-Malvern LRT, a direct transit connection to the Toronto subway system.
Emily Kakouris, a third-year student who plays soccer and field hockey, is excited about the prospect of expanding sports infrastructure at UTSC. “There are many sports and activities coming out of UTSC, but very limited space to accommodate them,” said Kakouris.
Franco Vaccarino, principal of UTSC, shared her enthusiasm. “This project speaks to the needs that I’ve been hearing from the first day I got [to UTSC]. This need refers to the present substandard athletics facilities that accommodate only 4,000 of the current 10,000-student population,” he said.
The federal and provincial governments will provide 56 per cent of the funding, while Toronto and the university will each make a 22 per cent contribution. UTSC’s tab comes to $37.5 million, and it wants students to pay $30 million through levies.
Scarborough Campus Student Union president Zuhair Syed, excited “beyond words” at the decision, said students can vote on whether to ratify the levies in a referendum in March 2010. “The decision has to be made by students but the fact that we can present this opportunity [to them] is the first and biggest step,” said Syed. “Our job is to present the facts to the student body.”
Asked how UTSC would pay for the facilities if students vote against the levy, UTSC spokesperson Laura Matthews said the university is confident the levy will be passed.
“Students need to be mindful of the levies and vote against them,” said Joeita Gupta, spokesperson for No Games Toronto, set up in early 2009 by U of T students and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty to campaign against Toronto’s bid. The group argues that resources going towards the Pan Am Games would be better spent on health care, childcare, education, and poverty, among other areas. Gupta, a U of T student who sits on Governing Council and is an exec at the Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students, added that the group isn’t opposed to athletics or better facilities at UTSC.
“Although I won’t be here when it’s done, it is an investment. But it’s frustrating [because of how] we are struggling with tuition as it is,” said secondyear social science student Clara Price.
The UTSC campus will play host to the Games’ swimming, diving, fencing, modern pentathlon and Parapan volleyball competitions, while the downtown campus will host field hockey, futsal (a variation of indoor soccer), and soccer, in addition to the opening and closing ceremonies for the Parapan Am Games.