Friday, April 10, 2009
TDSB makes Lakeshore Collegiate deal with MLSE
That's a lot of letters up there. Yesterday I went to a "public consultation" about the future of Lakeshore Collegiate. This is a follow up to the meeting back in November. Dave Perkins of The Toronto Star wrote on Monday that the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) made a deal with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) for a practice field for the Toronto FC soccer team. Dave's main concern is that this is a sweetheart deal for MLSE and the local community will get shafted. Based on the plan outlined by TDSB, Dave's column is accurate. But after speaking to MLSE reps in attendance, they don't want to be perceived as bad guys and I think we can work with them. It just shows that one can never trust politicians and bureaucrats to do the right thing for the community. They're so desperate to make a deal, they'll throw the baby out with the bath water and end up looking like fools.
And that's how TDSB Trustee Bruce Davis looked after last night's revisions of the Lakeshore Collegiate project. With one major exception, the deal is a good one. But that one exception is a big problem for those of us who want an all inclusive community centre. First, the Gus Ryder Pool won't be moved because the City Of Toronto won't move it. Instead of a park between Lakeshore Collegiate and Lakeshore Lions Arena, there will be two soccer pitches built that can also be used as a football field, track etc. There will also be a private soccer practice area behind the arena. This is where it becomes a problem. The TDSB has given MLSE another soccer pitch inside the arena and this will be the new home of the Toronto FC Soccer Academy. My problem with this is it really takes something from the community that we should be using for a complete community centre. The rest of the plan for the arena is so vague and half baked that it's clear that not much thought was given to it. Also, MLSE will manage the building for three years. Personally, I wouldn't have given them the inside space. But I'm not a politician desperate to make a deal.
While I recognize that MLSE is spending a lot of money on this project, it's heavily weighted in MLSE's favour. And it seems to me that it would be in MLSE's best interest as corporate citizens to give something back to benefit the community. We still want a real community centre. So after giving Bruce Davis some well deserved grief, I decided to go where the money is and went to speak to MLSE reps in attendance. I spoke to Marc Petitpas. He's Senior Director, Event Services & GM, BMO Field & Ricoh Coliseum. That's him on the right in the above pic receiving a public service award from The Mikey Network. I didn't have a lot of time so of course I pitched my main agenda about the needs of the disabled in this part of the community. Of course there's more to it than that and I hope to set up a meeting with Marc and I plan to take LAMP executive director Russ Ford with me. I believe that MLSE wants to be perceived positively in the community. It's in their best interest to open a dialogue with us and work on a solution for the arena that is beneficial for everyone. Our goals haven't changed. I think we can work with these guys.