School board working hard on public-private partnerships to revamp deteriorating facilities
Over three years ago, a proposal by the Toronto District School Board’s operations and facilities management committee was offered to five schools that new fields were on the horizon.
These Championship Fields, replacing some of the pockmarked green spaces and their rusty goal posts, were being placed citywide in five strategic regions to provide opportunities not only to West Humber CI, Lakeshore CI, Newtonbrook SS, Monarch Park CI and Lester B. Pearson CI, but to the district schools as well.
Mysteriously to Newtonbrook’s current head of phys. ed., Leonid Kilimnik, the proposal vanished.
“There was going to be one in every region, then suddenly it was all put on hold,” he said. “I don’t know what the reason was. I don’t know if it was funding.
“They said they were going to go on with the plans and they looked at this and the talks stopped.”
At the time John Giuga was overlooking Newtonbrook’s athletics department, and was one of many phys. ed. teachers who were called into a meeting with the board’s planners.
One of the key players, Sheila Penny, director of strategic building and renewal, confirmed the reason for the proposal’s suspension was indeed money.
The board took steps to obtain funding for all five fields, to help pay for artificial turfs, lights, drainage and domes, including the joint federal and provincial program called the recreational infrastructure Canada.
“So we went in with high hopes and we didn’t secure funding for one project,” Penny said. “We said, ‘Okay, the board doesn’t have capital funds right now to address this program, we can’t get federal or provincial funding, what can do we for funding now?’ ”
Penny and the committee then sought out public-private partnerships to help move their goal working with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to build a new turf at Lakeshore CI, and Nustadia Recreation Canada to provide the other aspects.
A similar joint venture has been established for Monarch Park CI, situated in the heart of East York. Razor Management Inc. has entered into a shared-use agreement with the board to deliver a revamped facility for the Lions’ athletic department and surrounding area.
The school’s head of phys. ed. Robert Galikowski is waiting patiently for the day when the plans turn into a reality.
“I’m more like, when I see it standing, I’ll worry about it or deal with it,” he said. “From what I understand, it’s been okayed and they want to go forward with it, but I still think there are some Is to be dotted and Ts to be crossed.”
But he admits it’s exciting his school is the second in the planned five facilities.
“I think it’s pretty obvious that young kids will see these things and they’ll gravitate to the school,” he said. “That could change the nature of the school.”
For years he said he’s been asking both his school and the board to maintain the field that’s plagued by fescue-patterned baldness. His frustration piques when he travels to the suburbs and 905 for sporting events.
“One problem I have with a lot of this, I’ve got a son who plays soccer and basketball and he travels outside of the city a lot for tournaments and games and you see a real big difference outside the city,” he said. “It’s nice to see that we’re starting to get maybe some of the nice stuff that I see outside of the city.”
Though Newtonbrook is on hold for the moment, the board is still pursuing it.
“First of all, it’s a great opportunity for our students and for our athletes to be able to have a state-of-the-art facility and especially the opportunity to train on a regular basis,” said Kilimnik. “Sometimes when you have a grass field, and it’s raining, it gets destroyed, like it happened last year when a few of our games had to be cancelled because of the rain.”
But most importantly, parents would be given the chance to see their children hit the gridiron or the pitch.
“I would love to have the opportunity to have games later in the day where parents can actually see their kids and have that bonding with their kids,” he said. “A lot of the parents in our area are immigrants and they work very, very late and if their kids are on any of our sports teams they don’t really have the opportunity to see their kids because most of the games are around 3 o’clock or 3:30.
“This will give us the opportunity to have a game later so parents can come in and actually see their kids and be proud of their accomplishments.”
Because the money isn’t there yet for Newtonbrook to construct fields like the ones at North Toronto CI’s or Northern SS, Kilimnik says the idea of public-private partnership may be an avenue worth traveling.
“It’s hard for me to say that I am optimistic, but I will say that it is definitely an exciting opportunity that we would love to have,” Kilimnik said. “If it involves us and our alumni coming up with a few hundred thousand dollars then I am not (optimistic).”
There’s a sense of delight with Galikowski if the plans come to fruition. Lakeshore CI is being built. Monarch Park is next with the construction of a $4.4 million project, funded entirely by Razor Management Inc., set to begin April 2012. That is subject to municipal approvals. Dome installation is set for November 2012.
“When it comes, it will obviously be something wonderful for our school but also for the community,” Galikowski said. “I’ve played and have taken my son to the hoop dome up there in Downsview and it’s something nice for people to do especially during the wintertime.
“Basically people who enjoy their sports — traditionally outdoor sports — will be able to keep doing what they love and I think that is a wonderful thing.”