A compact plan for the 2015 Pan and Parapan American Games will see more events take place in Toronto, and a shift in focus to a handful of major sites outside the city including Markham and Mississauga, with all soccer games held at a new Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton.
The new venue plan will be announced Friday morning at an event expected to be attended by politicians from three levels of government including federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
The new strategy of “clustering” events was unveiled by Ian Troop, CEO of the TO2015 organizing committee in January as a way to save money and reduce transportation headaches, but exactly what that means for individual communities hoping to be part of the events has remained uncertain.
The revised plan to cluster events will increase activities at the “Pan Am Park” at Exhibition Place, The Globe and Mail has learned, as well as three other Toronto sites – Centennial Park in Etobicoke, York University, University of Toronto Scarborough, and U of T’s downtown St. George campus.
Outside the Toronto, Markham will be named a cluster, hosting events at its new field house and pool, and Mississauga will be a cluster with activities centred at its Hershey Centre, sources say.
In a switch from earlier plans, which had soccer matches spread among venues in the GTA, the new strategy will see all games, including finals, held in Hamilton.
“This is a great outcome for the city,” said Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina Thursday. Mr. Bratina predicted the new schedule will mean more spectators staying in local hotels and increased crowds, especially for popular teams from South America and matches involving the defending champion Canadian women’s team.
The games will be held at the city’s new $150-million stadium to be built on the site of the existing Ivor Wynne Stadium. Work on the new venue will begin this year, once the CFL season ends, and it is expected to be completed by the summer of 2014.
Hamilton was originally considered as a site for track and field events, but they were later shifted to York University, which will also host tennis.
While some sports venues remain uncertain, including key sports such as baseball and softball, Friday’s announcement is designed to demonstrate progress for the Toronto event, which has faced criticism for a lack of transparency. Questions also have been raised about cost overruns and whether venues will be ready on time, given the delay in announcing event locations.
Toronto Councillor Mark Grimes, the city’s point man for the games and chair of the board of Exhibition Place, said the switch in strategy makes sense.
“I think having clusters is going to attract more visitors,” Mr. Grimes said. “It’s going to be easier to see more sports.”
Concentrating activities at a few sites also will cut security costs and ease transportation to events, he said. “How we move athletes through the city is going to be the big challenge. The more clustering the better for the logistics of the whole event,” he said.
The athletes’ village will be located near Toronto’s waterfront in the West Don Lands and after the games it will become a mixed-use community.
In addition to shifting sports to Exhibition Place, source say negotiations are taking place to hold additional activities at the new Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport slated to be built by 2014 at U of T’s downtown campus.