Sport Infrastructure Part 3: LGBTQ-focused Sport Centre in Toronto’s Downtown East

The last of this Sport Infrastructure Series (refer to Part 1 and Part 2 in the links provided) focuses on the development of a sport facility that will provide athletic and recreation programs for LGBTQ folks. The facility will be built in Moss Park in downtown Toronto’s east end.

Historically, almost everything the LGBTQ community has achieved in Toronto, from access to space to social acceptance to human rights to program funding has been achieved through advocacy. This could be said of most, if not all marginalized groups. Sport for LGBTQ folks may seem like a benign or niche area of advocacy, however for many who are inside of sport or ever considered participation in different facets of sport, it can be uncomfortable and ostracizing to be in mainstream environments. That’s why this Moss Park development is exciting.

Spearheaded by the 519 Church Street Community Centre, an agency of the City of Toronto, the Moss Park project is a work in progress. Recently the project has run into local opposition, namely from members of the Queer Trans Community Defence (QTCD). QTCD has been pushing the 519 and City of Toronto on the details of the project in an attempt to curb the looming impact of gentrification on the neighbourhood especially for the poor and homeless, sex workers and drug users in the Moss Park community.

Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, a member of QTCD, has been documenting the evolution of the project in Now Magazine. Her article in October 2015 first introduced readers to the issue of gentrification and the Moss Park project, and as recently as April 6, 2016 she has written a second piece updating Now Magazine readers about the status of the project.

Development always has a contradictory nature to it as modernization means destruction of the old and the building of the new. This is something people witnessed in the west end when the Gladstone Hotel was renovated. And in the end, the new look of the Gladstone did, and continues to cater to the economically comfortable and wealthy. I’m not sure what the answers are, but in the case of the Moss Park project one marginalized group should not have to benefit at the expense of the other.

As this initiative develops it will be interesting to see how the City of Toronto and the 519 respond to the accountability demands of the QTCD. And while I’m sure the City of Toronto and the 519 have the best of intentions with this project, inevitably the politics involved, the complex needs of the Moss Park community, and the import of the project to the LGBTQ community makes it a volatile thing to navigate.