Students at UTSC have voted to pass a levy to pay for construction costs of the sports complex that will host the 2015 Pan Am Games. The referendum ran from March 17-19. It netted the highest ever referendum turnout at UTSC, with 2,337 votes cast, a voter turnout of 23 per cent. Unofficial results were released Sunday morning. Ratification is expected at the board of directors meeting on Wednesday, March 24.
“I’m on campus right now and it’s pure excitement,” said John Kapageridis, president of the Scarborough College Athletics Association. He said he realized there is a lot of work to be done. “We do want to address the concerns of the ‘no’ voters. We want everyone realize the potential of what is to come.”
For over a month, campaigners from both sides have been trying to get students out to vote. Town hall forums were held by both teams in recent weeks.
“We are excited to learn from our Student Union that our students have decided to proceed with this partnership,” reads a press release from UTSC principal Franco Vaccarino. He called the complex an outstanding legacy: “Because of our shared vision and ongoing commitment to work together, we are able to bring about transformative change for this campus.”
Adrian Crutchley, a fourth-year student and member of the “Vote No” campaign, said he was glad that the referendum elicited debate that allowed students to make an informed decision. “I wish the No side voters and No side supporters would have been more vocal and supported the cause more,” he said, commenting that though the No side gained momentum toward the end, it was too little, too late.
Crutchley congratulated the Yes campaign. “Let’s make sure the $30 million is well spent and something that UTSC and all people can be proud of,” he said.
The Pan Am sports complex will be located at Military Trail and Morningside Avenue as part of an expansion project that runs to $750 million. Students will contribute $30 million over a 25-year period, amounting to 80 per cent of UTSC’s share of the bill.
Once the levy is implemented, full-time students will pay $40 per semester and part-time students will pay $8. This amount will be inflated at a rate of 4 per cent annually until 2014, when the rates go up to $140 per semester for full-timers and $28 for part-timers.
“I hope the new athletic centre lives up to the hype that’s been created around it,” said Bhavani Munshi, a second-year UTSC student. “I’m not thrilled to be paying for a facility I will most likely not be using after I graduate, but the prospect of building something for my university’s future is exciting.”
The 300,000-square-foot complex will house multi-purpose gyms, fitness and training centres, a 200-metre indoor running track and two Olympic-sized pools among other facilities. A Scarborough-Malvern Light Rail Transit system is also included in the package.
Vaccarino said in the Vote Yes forum that the old athletics space will be used to host recreational events and study space. The new complex, he said, will offer students a number of job opportunities.
Construction is estimated to be a two-year project, according to Laura Matthews, UTSC’s media contact. Breaking ground will begin in late 2011 or 2012. In a press release, mayor David Miller said that the vote will strengthen the case for moving ahead in a timely manner with the LRT construction.