UTSC students to vote on Pan Am pool

As part of Toronto’s package for hosting the 2015 Pan Am Games, largely seen as a “practice run” for getting the summer Olympics, an Olympic-sized pool is to be built on the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus. Funding for the $170M centre has almost entirely been allocated; all that remains is the student’s portion of the cost. That portion is $30M, about 18% of the total cost, and results in a maximum of $280 more for an undergraduate tuition. If the proposed fee structure is approved, the student portion of the cost will be paid by students over the course of 25 years.

The referendum on the issue takes place later this month. Those on the “yes” side say it’s a no-brainer— “we are getting a $170-million [facility] for just $30-million,” says the president of UTSC’s athletic association.

Opponents, however, say that the cost is too high. Predictably, there will always be students who never want to pay anything more than they have to for world-class facilities or education. While there is some merit in this position given the financial struggles that many students face, this is an opportunity for Scarborough College to put itself and its students on the map. This facility will attract students and athletes to the campus, and it will present great opportunities for amateur athletes to train on a regular basis.

Not only does it benefit UTSC, but I do not think it is a stretch to say it is a city-building exercise for Toronto and Scarborough. Long the outcast in both transit and athletic facilities, Scarborough is about to take a great leap forward with this facility and the accompanying Scarborough-Malvern LRT line. This Transit City project will eventually connect the UTSC campus with the Bloor-Danforth subway line in the west and one of Toronto’s “priority neighbourhoods“, Malvern, to the northeast.

The potential of university campuses as transit nodes has curiously been ignored by the TTC for the most part. Other municipalities (Ottawa, Region of Waterloo)  have recognized the trip-generating potential of campuses, while the TTC has only recently awoken to the elephant that is York University. UTSC by comparison is small, but growing.

The Pan Am Games co-ordinating committee does not seem to have considered a scaled-down option if the students decline the new fees. Possible options include digging somewhere else for money, or building the aquatics centre elsewhere. For his part, Mayor David Miller is conducting a town hall with students at the campus today to support the proposal. UTSC students would be wise not to pass up on this opportunity.

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