The first time I heard about the Robert Street Field and its adjoining ice rink was just the other day, when I read about it in The Varsity’s News section. I have walked around our huge university campus for three years — from St. Joseph Street to Harbord Street and all the way to Spadina Avenue — and not once have I come across this space. I even visited the Faculty of Kinesiology web page to try and find at least some information on it, but I came up short. So I ventured out and took a look for myself.
What I saw was a scene very much out of character for the area. On one side of the Bloor Street there was a beautiful lineup of Victorian-style houses, and on the other there lay a decrepit old ice rink, filled with abandoned Toronto street garbage cans — essentially a landfill. Frankly, I felt sorry for the neighbourhood, being forced to see that view every day for years.
This got me thinking about the situation St. Michael’s College had to deal with in 2004, when they were forced to sell green space for condo development due to a lack of funds. In an article published early this year, it was reported that the University of Toronto’s building maintenance totaled $552 million, which was $34 million higher than the previous year. If this grand cost increases once again in 2017, it should be the main factor in deciding what will become of the disrepaired Robert Street Field.
If the university’s plans to improve the space fall through, will Robert Street Field and its ice rink be closed down and bought by a condo developer in the way other abandoned Toronto spaces have fallen victim? Or will the Faculty of Kinesiology receive hopeful cries from U of T students and the neighbourhood folk alike? In light of the current circumstances, I think it would be wise for the city government to have complete control of the space, thus allowing for the people of the neighbourhood to do what they please with land that is an unfortunate eyesore in their community.
Areej Rodrigo is a third-year student at St. Michael’s College studying English and Theatre and Performance Studies.