Residents angry about cost, effects of Pan Am BMX facility in Centennial Park

Community Oct 17, 2014 by Cynthia Reason Etobicoke Guardian

Tempers flared at a sparsely attended – yet often heated – meeting to discuss the Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre earlier this week.

Among the 15 or so local residents who attended the meeting, which was held at Michael Power/St. Joseph Wednesday night, were a handful who vocally opposed the $4.5 million, 350-metre bike course – none more outspoken in his criticism than former Ward 3 councillor and deputy mayor Doug Holyday, a longtime opponent of the project who blasted Pan Am Games officials for its ballooning budget.

“When this passed at council in February 2011, I think it was $1.5 million, now it’s come back at $4.5 million. What I want to know is, what took place to create that tremendous increase in money?” he asked.

“People go to jail for this,” he added, voice raised, to applause from the thin crowd – including Romana Marconi, chair of the Friends of Centennial Park Conservatory group, who came armed with a ‘Protect Our Greenspaces’ placard.

Holyday continued, “How can you go to council and sell this thing against the local councillor’s own advice, and then you baited and switched it for $4.5 million? Something is very wrong here.”

While Wednesday’s meeting was originally called by the city to update area residents on the status of the Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre, which is currently under construction in advance of the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, it often dissolved into a shouting match as attendees criticized the project’s potential impact on nearby wetlands, safety concerns at the adjacent Toboggan Hill, the perceived lack of community consultation in the planning process, and the culture of vendors and loud music often associated with BMX events, among other concerns.

Despite residents’ misgivings about the project, sitting Ward 3 Councillor Peter Leon – who was appointed to the seat when Holyday elected Etobicoke-Lakeshore MPP last August, but isn’t running for re-election – said he supports the BMX track as a rejuvenation tool for Centennial Park as a whole.

“While there are some mixed feelings about this facility, I have no doubt in my mind that after the Pan Am Games there will be activity in (at the BMX Centre) that will give the park more usage; that will draw more people to it; that will allow more money to be spent in it; that will allow Centennial Park to be restored back to what it was in the old days of Etobicoke,” he said. “Those are my reasons for supporting it.”

When complete by late fall, the 3.2-hectare Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre track will feature a compact closed-looped design, consisting of two start ramps – an eight-metre competition ramp and a five-metre ramp to serve younger and inexperienced riders – four straightaways, and three banked turns.

As a legacy project, Catherine Meade, a director of the Pan Am Games with the City of Toronto, said the BMX track will not only challenge the 25 male and 18 female riders competing in the 2015 Games, but will be maintained in the decades to come for the enjoyment and use of the community.

In addressing Holyday’s critique of the BMX centre’s budget, Meade clarified that the original $1.5 million budget projection was, in fact, the estimate for a temporary BMX facility originally slated to be constructed in the parking lot of Ontario Place for the duration of Games, then disassembled after its completion.

The budget for the project grew to around $4.5 million, she said, only when its scope changed to that of a permanent, legacy project at Centennial Park.

“Having these facilities for the Games is great, but that’s two weeks, then folks are gone,” she said. “What is really critical for us overall, is that these facilities work and are used 20, 30, 40 years into the future. And so, we’re working with the Ontario and Canadian Cycling Associations to help us to ensure that this facility is used well beyond the Games.”

To those ends, Meade invited Brendan Arnold, head coach with the Ontario Cycling Association, to Wednesday’s meeting to discuss with residents the future plans for the Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre – which Arnold characterized as a “game changer” for the sport of cycling in Ontario.

Currently, he noted, Ontario has only 470 registered BMX athletes and seven BMX facilities on which those athletes can train, but Arnold said he hopes the new state-of-the-art track at Centennial Park will increase the sport’s popularity in Ontario and put it on par with the top three BMX provinces in the country – British Columbia (which boasts 2,200 athletes and 18 facilities), Alberta (with 1,450 athletes and 14 facilities) and Quebec (with 1,300 athletes and 25 facilities).

“Ontario Cycling is committed to making sure we have this track, not only as a live performance centre, but also working towards getting a club going at this track, which is vital,” Arnold said.

“When you have a track like this, people want to know how to use it and they want to be competent in doing it. It’s our commitment to make sure we have coaching, instruction and that there’s programs running out of this facility.”

The association, he added, currently has two programs in the works: one, a High-Performance program for BMX athletes with the potential to represent Canada in BMX racing at the 2020 Olympic Games; and secondly a Rising Stars program set to launch in 2015 for the province’s top 10- to 14-year-old athletes hoping to race in the 2024 and 2028 Olympics.

Todd Harper, head of Elite Trax Inc.’s Canadian office and a BMX dad himself, said he wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre produce Olympic-level talent in the very near future.

Elite Trax designed and built the BMX course for the 2012 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, as well as the US Olympic Committee Training Facility in Chula Vista, California, the British Cycling Manchester Indoor Arena in Manchester, Great Britain, and the Canadian Cycling High Level Training Facility in Abbotsford, BC, among many others – but the BMX course Elite is currently building at Centennial Park, he said, ranks among the very best in the world.

“This track is one of the top tracks anywhere, and I’m very proud of it,” he said, noting that its design caters to riders of all abilities aged two to 80+. “With the five-metre and the eight-metre hills, they’re going to be iconic. When someone takes a picture during these Games, people are going to know it’s in Toronto, because there’s nothing else like it. It’s breathtaking for me.”

“What I want to see,” Harper added, “is an Olympian coming out of this track – and I have a good idea we’re going to see something spectacular here. The superstars of the sport are going to be in your backyard.”

Residents angry about cost, effects of Pan Am BMX facility in Centennial Park

Organizers, BMX community say permanent fixture will grow the sport

Community Oct 17, 2014 by Cynthia Reason Etobicoke Guardian

Tempers flared at a sparsely attended – yet often heated – meeting to discuss the Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre earlier this week.

Among the 15 or so local residents who attended the meeting, which was held at Michael Power/St. Joseph Wednesday night, were a handful who vocally opposed the $4.5 million, 350-metre bike course – none more outspoken in his criticism than former Ward 3 councillor and deputy mayor Doug Holyday, a longtime opponent of the project who blasted Pan Am Games officials for its ballooning budget.

“When this passed at council in February 2011, I think it was $1.5 million, now it’s come back at $4.5 million. What I want to know is, what took place to create that tremendous increase in money?” he asked.

“People go to jail for this,” he added, voice raised, to applause from the thin crowd – including Romana Marconi, chair of the Friends of Centennial Park Conservatory group, who came armed with a ‘Protect Our Greenspaces’ placard.

Holyday continued, “How can you go to council and sell this thing against the local councillor’s own advice, and then you baited and switched it for $4.5 million? Something is very wrong here.”

While Wednesday’s meeting was originally called by the city to update area residents on the status of the Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre, which is currently under construction in advance of the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, it often dissolved into a shouting match as attendees criticized the project’s potential impact on nearby wetlands, safety concerns at the adjacent Toboggan Hill, the perceived lack of community consultation in the planning process, and the culture of vendors and loud music often associated with BMX events, among other concerns.

Despite residents’ misgivings about the project, sitting Ward 3 Councillor Peter Leon – who was appointed to the seat when Holyday elected Etobicoke-Lakeshore MPP last August, but isn’t running for re-election – said he supports the BMX track as a rejuvenation tool for Centennial Park as a whole.

“While there are some mixed feelings about this facility, I have no doubt in my mind that after the Pan Am Games there will be activity in (at the BMX Centre) that will give the park more usage; that will draw more people to it; that will allow more money to be spent in it; that will allow Centennial Park to be restored back to what it was in the old days of Etobicoke,” he said. “Those are my reasons for supporting it.”

When complete by late fall, the 3.2-hectare Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre track will feature a compact closed-looped design, consisting of two start ramps – an eight-metre competition ramp and a five-metre ramp to serve younger and inexperienced riders – four straightaways, and three banked turns.

As a legacy project, Catherine Meade, a director of the Pan Am Games with the City of Toronto, said the BMX track will not only challenge the 25 male and 18 female riders competing in the 2015 Games, but will be maintained in the decades to come for the enjoyment and use of the community.

In addressing Holyday’s critique of the BMX centre’s budget, Meade clarified that the original $1.5 million budget projection was, in fact, the estimate for a temporary BMX facility originally slated to be constructed in the parking lot of Ontario Place for the duration of Games, then disassembled after its completion.

The budget for the project grew to around $4.5 million, she said, only when its scope changed to that of a permanent, legacy project at Centennial Park.

“Having these facilities for the Games is great, but that’s two weeks, then folks are gone,” she said. “What is really critical for us overall, is that these facilities work and are used 20, 30, 40 years into the future. And so, we’re working with the Ontario and Canadian Cycling Associations to help us to ensure that this facility is used well beyond the Games.”

To those ends, Meade invited Brendan Arnold, head coach with the Ontario Cycling Association, to Wednesday’s meeting to discuss with residents the future plans for the Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre – which Arnold characterized as a “game changer” for the sport of cycling in Ontario.

Currently, he noted, Ontario has only 470 registered BMX athletes and seven BMX facilities on which those athletes can train, but Arnold said he hopes the new state-of-the-art track at Centennial Park will increase the sport’s popularity in Ontario and put it on par with the top three BMX provinces in the country – British Columbia (which boasts 2,200 athletes and 18 facilities), Alberta (with 1,450 athletes and 14 facilities) and Quebec (with 1,300 athletes and 25 facilities).

“Ontario Cycling is committed to making sure we have this track, not only as a live performance centre, but also working towards getting a club going at this track, which is vital,” Arnold said.

“When you have a track like this, people want to know how to use it and they want to be competent in doing it. It’s our commitment to make sure we have coaching, instruction and that there’s programs running out of this facility.”

The association, he added, currently has two programs in the works: one, a High-Performance program for BMX athletes with the potential to represent Canada in BMX racing at the 2020 Olympic Games; and secondly a Rising Stars program set to launch in 2015 for the province’s top 10- to 14-year-old athletes hoping to race in the 2024 and 2028 Olympics.

Todd Harper, head of Elite Trax Inc.’s Canadian office and a BMX dad himself, said he wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre produce Olympic-level talent in the very near future.

Elite Trax designed and built the BMX course for the 2012 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, as well as the US Olympic Committee Training Facility in Chula Vista, California, the British Cycling Manchester Indoor Arena in Manchester, Great Britain, and the Canadian Cycling High Level Training Facility in Abbotsford, BC, among many others – but the BMX course Elite is currently building at Centennial Park, he said, ranks among the very best in the world.

“This track is one of the top tracks anywhere, and I’m very proud of it,” he said, noting that its design caters to riders of all abilities aged two to 80+. “With the five-metre and the eight-metre hills, they’re going to be iconic. When someone takes a picture during these Games, people are going to know it’s in Toronto, because there’s nothing else like it. It’s breathtaking for me.”

“What I want to see,” Harper added, “is an Olympian coming out of this track – and I have a good idea we’re going to see something spectacular here. The superstars of the sport are going to be in your backyard.”

Residents angry about cost, effects of Pan Am BMX facility in Centennial Park

Organizers, BMX community say permanent fixture will grow the sport

Community Oct 17, 2014 by Cynthia Reason Etobicoke Guardian

Tempers flared at a sparsely attended – yet often heated – meeting to discuss the Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre earlier this week.

Among the 15 or so local residents who attended the meeting, which was held at Michael Power/St. Joseph Wednesday night, were a handful who vocally opposed the $4.5 million, 350-metre bike course – none more outspoken in his criticism than former Ward 3 councillor and deputy mayor Doug Holyday, a longtime opponent of the project who blasted Pan Am Games officials for its ballooning budget.

“When this passed at council in February 2011, I think it was $1.5 million, now it’s come back at $4.5 million. What I want to know is, what took place to create that tremendous increase in money?” he asked.

“People go to jail for this,” he added, voice raised, to applause from the thin crowd – including Romana Marconi, chair of the Friends of Centennial Park Conservatory group, who came armed with a ‘Protect Our Greenspaces’ placard.

Holyday continued, “How can you go to council and sell this thing against the local councillor’s own advice, and then you baited and switched it for $4.5 million? Something is very wrong here.”

While Wednesday’s meeting was originally called by the city to update area residents on the status of the Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre, which is currently under construction in advance of the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, it often dissolved into a shouting match as attendees criticized the project’s potential impact on nearby wetlands, safety concerns at the adjacent Toboggan Hill, the perceived lack of community consultation in the planning process, and the culture of vendors and loud music often associated with BMX events, among other concerns.

Despite residents’ misgivings about the project, sitting Ward 3 Councillor Peter Leon – who was appointed to the seat when Holyday elected Etobicoke-Lakeshore MPP last August, but isn’t running for re-election – said he supports the BMX track as a rejuvenation tool for Centennial Park as a whole.

“While there are some mixed feelings about this facility, I have no doubt in my mind that after the Pan Am Games there will be activity in (at the BMX Centre) that will give the park more usage; that will draw more people to it; that will allow more money to be spent in it; that will allow Centennial Park to be restored back to what it was in the old days of Etobicoke,” he said. “Those are my reasons for supporting it.”

When complete by late fall, the 3.2-hectare Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre track will feature a compact closed-looped design, consisting of two start ramps – an eight-metre competition ramp and a five-metre ramp to serve younger and inexperienced riders – four straightaways, and three banked turns.

As a legacy project, Catherine Meade, a director of the Pan Am Games with the City of Toronto, said the BMX track will not only challenge the 25 male and 18 female riders competing in the 2015 Games, but will be maintained in the decades to come for the enjoyment and use of the community.

In addressing Holyday’s critique of the BMX centre’s budget, Meade clarified that the original $1.5 million budget projection was, in fact, the estimate for a temporary BMX facility originally slated to be constructed in the parking lot of Ontario Place for the duration of Games, then disassembled after its completion.

The budget for the project grew to around $4.5 million, she said, only when its scope changed to that of a permanent, legacy project at Centennial Park.

“Having these facilities for the Games is great, but that’s two weeks, then folks are gone,” she said. “What is really critical for us overall, is that these facilities work and are used 20, 30, 40 years into the future. And so, we’re working with the Ontario and Canadian Cycling Associations to help us to ensure that this facility is used well beyond the Games.”

To those ends, Meade invited Brendan Arnold, head coach with the Ontario Cycling Association, to Wednesday’s meeting to discuss with residents the future plans for the Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre – which Arnold characterized as a “game changer” for the sport of cycling in Ontario.

Currently, he noted, Ontario has only 470 registered BMX athletes and seven BMX facilities on which those athletes can train, but Arnold said he hopes the new state-of-the-art track at Centennial Park will increase the sport’s popularity in Ontario and put it on par with the top three BMX provinces in the country – British Columbia (which boasts 2,200 athletes and 18 facilities), Alberta (with 1,450 athletes and 14 facilities) and Quebec (with 1,300 athletes and 25 facilities).

“Ontario Cycling is committed to making sure we have this track, not only as a live performance centre, but also working towards getting a club going at this track, which is vital,” Arnold said.

“When you have a track like this, people want to know how to use it and they want to be competent in doing it. It’s our commitment to make sure we have coaching, instruction and that there’s programs running out of this facility.”

The association, he added, currently has two programs in the works: one, a High-Performance program for BMX athletes with the potential to represent Canada in BMX racing at the 2020 Olympic Games; and secondly a Rising Stars program set to launch in 2015 for the province’s top 10- to 14-year-old athletes hoping to race in the 2024 and 2028 Olympics.

Todd Harper, head of Elite Trax Inc.’s Canadian office and a BMX dad himself, said he wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Centennial Park Pan Am BMX Centre produce Olympic-level talent in the very near future.

Elite Trax designed and built the BMX course for the 2012 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, as well as the US Olympic Committee Training Facility in Chula Vista, California, the British Cycling Manchester Indoor Arena in Manchester, Great Britain, and the Canadian Cycling High Level Training Facility in Abbotsford, BC, among many others – but the BMX course Elite is currently building at Centennial Park, he said, ranks among the very best in the world.

“This track is one of the top tracks anywhere, and I’m very proud of it,” he said, noting that its design caters to riders of all abilities aged two to 80+. “With the five-metre and the eight-metre hills, they’re going to be iconic. When someone takes a picture during these Games, people are going to know it’s in Toronto, because there’s nothing else like it. It’s breathtaking for me.”

“What I want to see,” Harper added, “is an Olympian coming out of this track – and I have a good idea we’re going to see something spectacular here. The superstars of the sport are going to be in your backyard.”