A debate over the future of the track at Central Tech has the community in Harbord Village at opposition with students.

A debate over the future of the track at Central Tech has the community in Harbord Village at opposition with students.

The Central Tech High School library in Toronto played host to over 200 local residents and students on Thursday evening for a community meeting about the fate of their track and field.

The issue attracted local councillor of Ward 20, Adam Vaughan and the city’s mayor, Rob Ford. Ward 19’s councillor Mike Layton was also in attendance, along with a slew of other community figures. They mayor was greeted with cheers from the crowd.

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Ford has thrown his support behind the plans and the issue has him and Vaughan butting heads outside of City Hall.

The track has been closed to students and the public since Razor Management, the company that built the new Monarch Park facility, drilled bore holes into the ground for preliminary testing and found contaminants. Adam Vaughan has also applied to have the school grounds designated a cultural heritage site, which would mean it could not be renovated.

As the facility is today, the school — home to over 2,000 students and a city champ football team — is unable to host even high school level championship events. The Toronto District School Board doesn’t have enough money to renovate and are on board with the project; they feel the renovation is long overdue.

“I have played on it and coached kids on it and that field is not safe,” said Mayor Ford, but Vaughan has reservations and opposed the project.

“We need to have a conversation before we sign a contract, not afterwards,” said Vaughan.

The project on the table would see the old, original facilities upgraded to a new artificial turf field and high performance track with new lighting and change rooms. The lighting would stay on until 11:00 p.m. as per city bylaws and  the track and football field would be covered with a dome during winter months, making it accessible year-round. It was also stressed that the school board’s lands are private lands, not public. Currently the public has access to the facility through permits and because the school board allows them to. The land would be leased to Razor for 20 years to operate the facility as a private-public partnership. The renovation will cost an estimated $6 million.

Matt Raizenne, CEO of Razor Management, understands that the field and track are used heavily by the community. He is a runner himself and ran cross-country in high school with Olympic marathoner Eric Gillis. When asked how many in the audience regularly run on the track about 60 hands went up.

“If we’re going to do this it has to be accessible to the community,” said Raizenne, noting the track will still be free to access out of school hours to the public and for a fee during the winter when the dome is up. “People in the downtown core will be able to use the facilities. We want to be a facility of choice and a facility that the province looks to and says ‘we want to do that.'”

Most of the pushback from the community came from worries about increased traffic and parking problems. Locals from the area spoke and stressed already bad traffic problems and noted worries it could become worse. There are no plans to increase parking spaces and parking is already at the premium around the school, which hosts night classes.

The mayor also made comments to opposition because of parking concerns: “What are you going to do? Say no to everything? Say no to any development?”

Monarch Park Collegiate principal, Cynthia Abernethy, spoke about the parking issues with the facility  Razor has built at her school, saying it was originally a problem but that “the situation has vastly been improved.” She also said the school has benefitted immensely from having the new track.

The meeting also saw speeches from students and teachers of the school and Adriano Belli, a Central Tech grad who played two seasons in the NFL and had a long CFL career. Belli’s speech, along with some others, elicited cheers from students of the school.


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3 Comments

  • Masters Athlete says:

    Adam Vaughan feels that keeping the school as a decaying heritage site (with no money to preserve it) is more important than a year-round multi-sport facility for everyone from kids to high-schoolers (future Olympians?) to adults – in other words – the entire community.

  • arealocal says:

    As you go on to mention in the article, this isn’t about ‘privatization’ – the track is already private. The public will continue to have free access during the summer and gets the bonus of having a covered track during the winter. A 400m covered track. This would become an amazing year-round training facility for runners of all types.

  • Brandon Scott LeBlanc says:

    If their is one thing I can say in all this it is that this track and field needs the renovations that are being discussed.

    Toronto is the highest populated city in the country and as such may be perceived to have the highest athlete potential. MANY of our Canadian Champions and Olympians come out of Toronto or train there. High School is where the sports careers begin, it is where athletes make World Youth Championships and World Juniors on their way to the Olympics.

    Justyn Knight is a perfect example, he’s a cross country and track runner who has been in the news very much over the last few months after he won the Ontario High School Cross Country Championships by a large amount, then went on to win the Canadian Junior title and will be representing Canada at the North American Cross Country Championships. This is the kind of athlete that represents his country with pride on the world stage, and this is an initiative to help people like Justyn get there. For those of you that don’t know, Justyn lives and trains in Toronto.

    This project is not only for our top athletes, but for the recreational use as well. By offering citizens a place to run and play sports for free (except of course in the winter time) it is encouraging and offering a healthy lifestyle. Obesity is a huge problem in the world right now, primarily to North Americans and children.

    As a top athlete in the Maritime region, a Canadian junior half marathon champion, and an athlete representative at Athletics New Brunswick, I say the citizens of Toronto need this facility. If their is one thing I wish I had more use of in my training, whether that be treadmills, hurdles, weights, or alike, it’s a track. Athletes can lift all the weights they want and stretch all they want, but if they don’t have the actual facility to practice their sport in, then their is no hope for our Olympians.

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