Newspaper article The Canadian Press

City Council Votes in Favour of Artificial Turf Project for Pan Am Games

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

City Council Votes in Favour of Artificial Turf Project for Pan Am Games

Article excerpt

City council votes in favour of U of T turf

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TORONTO - The Pan Am Games field hockey project is a go, spelling the end of a bitter feud that had Olympic athletes facing off against a literary icon.

Toronto city councillors voted 30-12 on Wednesday not to block the $9.5 million project to replace the grass on the historic back campus with two artificial turf fields.

Ground breaking will go ahead July 1 as scheduled, and the city avoided what some councillors said may have turned into an almost-$10 million liability suit.

"Literally, the contract is signed with the contractor," city manager Joe Pennachetti told council. "The shovel is going in the ground July 1 and that's the issue."

Councillor Adam Vaughan filed a petition with 5,200 names to have the grass behind Hart House designated a heritage site, with concerns over the project ranging to environment sustainability, heritage and history issues, and access to the field. Even Canadian author Margaret Atwood, a U of T alumnus, had waded into the fray. Atwood was vocal in her support of keeping the field grass.

"This is a very significant green space in the downtown," Vaughan said. "It was set up and designed to frame the university buildings in a particular way, in a pastoral setting, and that will be lost as a result of this decision."

Scott Sandison, an Olympian in field hockey, circulated his own petition, collecting 2,200 names over the last three days.

"Pretty good considering they started their petition in November," Sandison said. "I think it was the community coming behind the idea of how important sport is, and just voicing their concerns and how important this facility is."

Sandison's passion for the Pan Am project, he said, was a result of growing up in Toronto without access to decent field hockey facilities.

"It hits home. For so many years we didn't have anywhere to train. Now the next generation will," said Sandison, one of several Olympians who watched the proceedings unfold at city hall. "For me to be part of that in some way, and to have that legacy. . . first and foremost we're going to have a facility built for field hockey and other sports in the community.

"I just know how important it is to all of the athletes now who are coming up through the system and who will come up through the system in the next 10 years playing on this turf, and having a chance to first see the Pan Am Games being played here, and then being able to play on that same facility and think about 'One day I can be out there and I can be competing in those Games.'"

Ken Pereira, a 20-year veteran of Canada's field hockey team, plus Vicky Sunohara, a three-time Olympian in women's ice hockey, and volleyball player John Barrett were among other Olympians in attendance.

Former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson, who opposes the artificial turf, was also there. …

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