Executive Director of Athletics and Physical Activity sets the record straight

“Programs, facilities and services are for the entire student body”

Executive Director of Athletics and Physical Activity sets the record straight

Confusion about sports facilities and services on campus is nothing new. For a long time, students have been puzzled over whether they can go skating in the Varsity Arena, how much Varsity Blues game tickets cost, what swimming lessons are available and — wait — are non-Kinesiology students allowed to use the pool at the Athletic Centre, or can we only use the one at Hart House?

The Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) is mindful of these sorts of questions. Based on feedback from surveys and focus groups, Beth Ali, Executive Director of Athletics and Physical Activity, said that “first-year students… wouldn’t go in the buildings because they thought that the swim lessons, the open rec basketball, varsity programs or intramural programs were only for KPE students.”

To counter this confusion, the faculty has adopted the moniker of “U of T Sport and Rec” as a way to differentiate the division of the faculty that runs co-curricular activities from its academic division.

The name was first used last year as part of the faculty’s Come See What You Can Do campaign to “engage all U of T students in sport and physical activity and raise awareness [of] the facilities, programs and services offered.”

“What we were introducing was the concept, that we live in KPE, we work with KPE, but U of T Sport and Rec is for the entire university student body and all of our programs, facilities and services are for the entire student body,” wrote Ali.

KPE is unique among other faculties in that it has an additional mandate to provide resources for sports and physical activity on all three campuses. This mandate is a result of a merger between the Department of Athletics and Recreation, the Graduate Program of Exercise Science, and the then-named School of Physical and Health Education in 1998.

But with such a broad mandate, it can be unclear what exactly falls under it given the breadth of programs and services related to sports and physical activity on the three campuses.

The most important point to note is that every student pays an ancillary fee to KPE and that the revenue collected is part of a co-curricular budget run by U of T Sport and Rec. This fee accounts for about 70 per cent of U of T Sport and Rec’s operating revenue, and it is kept separate from the budget run by the academic side of the faculty.

This means that the facilities, programs, and services operated by U of T Sport and Rec are open to all students. These facilities include the Athletic Centre, the Varsity Stadium and Arena, the Back Campus Fields, and even the intimidatingly named Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport.

A portion of the ancillary fee is remitted to UTM and UTSC to run programming for their own campuses. The operation of their facilities, which include UTM’s Recreation, Athletic and Wellness Centre and UTSC’s Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, is funded by a separate fee from UTM and UTSC students.

U of T Sport and Rec also runs tri-campus programs like intramurals and Varsity Blues. The Tri-Campus Development League is a particular program where two teams from UTSG and one team from UTM and UTSC each compete in a semester-long tournament with weekly practices.

U of T Sport and Rec is the largest employer of students on campus with over $5 million of operating expenses paid to 1,114 student employees. Ali believes that as a university employer, KPE is more mindful of the challenges student employees face in balancing work and studies.

“There’s an understanding that, yes you’re an employee, but you’re also a student and because you’re a student, you being successful as a student is our first priority. You working for us is the second priority,” said Ali.

Ice rink at Robert Street Field used as storage for garbage cans

Faculty of Kinesiology facility in disrepair since 1998

Ice rink at Robert Street Field used as storage for garbage cans

The ice rink at the south end of Robert Street Field, located near Spadina Avenue and Sussex Avenue, is currently being used as storage for garbage cans, and its tennis court has a snow fence for a net.

According to a report by U of T plant cyberinfrastructure and systems biology professor Nicholas Provart, grounds staff have been throwing the trash cans, labeled ‘Ryerson,’ onto the rink since the summer. He also said that the rink, co-owned by the university and the city, has not been operational since the failure of its ice-making equipment in 1998. It has not reopened since, despite the city allocating $1.3 million for repairs in 2009.

The field, currently listed as an outdoor complex by the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education, serves as the practice grounds for the Varsity Blues women’s lacrosse team and the playing space for intramural ultimate frisbee. It also hosts the Blues’ Buddy-up program.

“The tennis courts and rink at the south end of the field would certainly benefit from improvement,” said Althea Blackburn-Evans, Director of Media Relations at U of T. “We look forward to working with the community, our local councillor and the City to improve the area through landscaping and new programming.”

Provart also said that results of a 2011 survey conducted by the Harbord Village Residents Association, which represents people living in the area, voiced the community’s desire to have a “useful green space” at the south end of the field, and that “if U of T feels that it can’t maintain that space then perhaps the city can do a better job of it.”

Blackburn-Evans said that the university expects to improve and expand the playing fields, although a timeline for these changes has not been specified.

Faculty of Kinesiology Public Relations Director Sarah Baker did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment as of press time.