As you may have heard, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. has approached the City with plans to build and operate a 68,000 sq. ft. basketball centre on the land just to the west of Medieval Times. MLSE will build the facility at their own cost. The City would own the facility but lease it back to MLSE for twenty years with a possibility for a ten year renewal. The centre would include two indoor basketball courts. One court would be reserved for the Raptors and other high performance teams such as the Canada Basketball Association. The other would be available for community use. The City would run a recreation program for part of the year, and community groups could book the court through the City.
A community meeting was held on August 11th to review the proposal and hear from community members and businesses on site. We heard widespread concerns about the protection of green space on Exhibition Place property while providing adequate parking options for services on site. Specifically, many Exhibition Place businesses felt that the grounds are already short of parking. The plan to pave over the baseball diamond on Exhibition Place grounds, to make up for the lost parking also had many critics. I was among the critics.
Too much open publicly-accessible land has been lost at Exhibition Place. Worse, we were being asked to use public money to pave this green space.
Exhibition Place Board of Governors met on August 14th to consider this proposal. The Board approved the proposal without adequately addressing the green space and parking issues. I opposed the move. Further, I pointed out that as the local Councillor I was considering using my right to require further planning reports to be sent to Council, which would delay the project.
I then had a series of meetings with MLSE and City staff which lead to a revised proposal. To their credit, MLSE has agreed to include $2 million towards a parking structure elsewhere on the grounds. This figure includes an overall parking study of Exhibition Place. While that work is being done MLSE would pay to temporarily convert the baseball diamond to parking and provide $1 million to regreen the site when the permanent parking structure is complete.
This modified, much improved arrangement was approved unanimously at the Executive Committee, and will go on to Council next week. The report is available on-line at:
I encourage you to review the Report and contact my office to provide your comments/concerns.
I want to thank the many community members who came on fairly short notice to speak up for maintaining public amenities on the grounds. You made a difference.