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.

Sport Infrastructure Part 2: MLSE LaunchPad Coming to Moss Park

Over the last decade there has been a tremendous push for increased sport infrastructure in Ontario, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area where demand is high. TORONTO2015 was part of this spark, but I believe sport enthusiasts and community-driven leaders have succeeded in convincing those in powerful positions about the positive impact sport has on marginalized communities and youth. So it comes as no surprise that Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment (MLSE) has taken the lead on a fantastic initiative in downtown Toronto called MLSE LaunchPad.

MLSE LaunchPad — in partnership with the MLSE Foundation, Toronto Community Housing Corporation and City of Toronto — will transform a space at 261 Jarvis Street (in the heart of Moss Park) that has been vacant for two decades. A 42,000 sq ft facility will be built and dedicated to Sport For Development* programming and address a range of community priorities such as education, improved health and community safety. It will be the first of its kind in North America.

Opening in 2017, MLSE LaunchPad will include a multipurpose gymnasium, classrooms and a teaching kitchen. It will feature programming seven days a week that will focus on four pillars with sport at the core: healthy body; healthy mind; ready for school; ready for work. The facility will encourage teamwork, resilience and striving for excellence; promote a healthy and active lifestyle; provide education on nutrition to encourage healthy eating habits; and teach life skills to prepare young people for school and work.

Additionally, the Ontario Government is investing $1.6 million over four years, which will support evaluation and research team staffing, training and support for non-profit organizations to develop their youth service capacity and the development of measurement indicators and baseline metrics.

This is really thrilling! What a win for residents of Moss Park and the city as a whole.

[*The Sport for Development movement in Canada involves community sport projects that intentionally use sport to build healthy communities, to train the next generation of leaders and to influence government at all levels to adopt more inclusive and robust sport-related policies.]

Sport Infrastructure Part 1: City of Toronto Facilities Master Plan

Did you know you can subscribe to a variety of City of Toronto e-newsletters? There are 3 categories: News and Information, Road and Lane Closures, and Get Involved in Your Community. The last category is where the Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan is housed, which is a 20-year plan that will guide decision-making and future investment, and is being developed to support sustainable and equitable access to high quality parks and recreation facilities across Toronto.

Starting tomorrow, the City of Toronto is hosting town halls that will help shape the future of Toronto’s active spaces and people places. They want to hear from you about the City’s investment in parks and recreation facilities such as swimming pools, community centres, ice rinks and sports fields. You can participate in one of four public meetings, either in-person or online, to have your say on the current provision of facilities, principles for investment, and facility gaps/needs.

DATES:

February 23, 7–9 p.m.
Wallace Emerson Community Centre (Gymnasium) – 1260 Dufferin St

February 24, 7–9 p.m.
Warden Hilltop Community Centre (Gymnasium) – 25 Mendelssohn St

March 2, 7–9 p.m.
Etobicoke Olympium (Olympic Lounge) – 590 Rathburn Rd

March 3, 7–9 p.m.
Edithvale Community Centre (Banquet Hall) – 131 Finch Ave West

ONLINE PARTICIPATION
All four of the town halls will be webcast live. Listen in and join the discussion by submitting written questions/comments live. Enter one of the four webcast links below into your internet browser to register in advance or join the webcast as it is happening:

February 23: www.bit.ly/Feb23TownHall
February 24: www.bit.ly/Feb24TownHall
March 2: www.bit.ly/Mar2TownHall
March 3: www.bit.ly/Mar3TownHall

Development of the Facilities Master Plan (FMP) involves six phases, with consultation taking place throughout. Phase 1 has been complete and public consultations are part of Phase 2. This process needs informed and community-involved/oriented individuals to have their say. Please consider taking the time to contribute. For more info on this project go to toronto.ca/parks/facilitiesplan.

PHASE 1 Current State of Provision August 2015 – January 2016
PHASE 2 Needs Assessment & Gap Analysis April 2016
PHASE 3 Stakeholder Review & Consultation October 2015 – October 2016
PHASE 4 Financing the Plan June – August 2016
PHASE 5 Draft Plan October 2016
PHASE 6 Final Plan Q1 2017