The Toronto District School Board leased one of its high-school sports fields in 2011 to a private company for $1 in annual rent.
The 21-year lease gave Razor Management exclusive rights to rent out the playing field at Monarch Park Collegiate Institute, near Coxwell and Danforth avenues, in return for installing and maintaining a track and an all-weather dome, and refurbishing the field, according to a copy of the license agreement obtained by The Globe and Mail. Razor pays $1 to lease the TDSB property, and is required to donate $250 a year to the school.
Razor maintains the right to rent out the athletic facility after school hours and on weekends to clients such as soccer teams and the Toronto Ultimate club.
Details of the deal at Monarch Park come as Razor's efforts to get a similar agreement at Central Technical School, near Bathurst and Harbord streets, are being opposed by the city in Ontario Superior Court. The outcome of the Central Tech case is being closely watched, because the TDSB wants to open a handful of championship fields at other schools to private operation. It also raises questions of whether this will lead to more domes popping up on school properties and limited access to school grounds for local residents before and after classes and during the summer.
Matthew Raizenne, the owner of Razor, defended his deal with the TDSB, saying it is similar to one the city struck with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in 2009 for Lamport Stadium, in which the base lease payment was $2 a year. He said it is unfortunate the city is fighting the TDSB instead of working with the school board to improve recreational facilities for students and the community.
"The city should be out there aggressively partnering with the Catholic school board and the Toronto District School Board and saying, 'Listen, the schools represent the biggest green areas in the city, and we have this money, and we want to improve this green space for people who live in the neighbourhood,'" Mr. Raizenne said. "And if they were out there actively doing this, I wouldn't be in the picture."
Asked about the $1 annual rent, the TDSB said it has not given away a publicly owned school field for virtually nothing. Students have free access to a high-quality recreational facility that the board could not afford otherwise.
Spokeswoman Shari Schwartz-Maltz described the $1 rent as a "symbolic consideration which makes it a binding contract."
"Essentially, both parties need to give the other something," she said. "Otherwise, it would be a gift."
The Monarch Park domed sports field opened about two years ago, after Mr. Raizenne approached officials at the school board. Mr. Raizenne said his company spent $6-million to refurbish and renovate the facility.
Under the agreement, Razor provides the school free access to the facility for about 30 per cent of available hours in a year. The rest of the time, the company rents it out to private sports groups and receives all the revenue. Mr. Raizenne said the community also has free access to the facility from time to time.
The Monarch Park license agreement, dated December, 2011, is among the court documents in the Central Tech case. The TDSB is fighting the city for denying its application to have a privately run recreational facility at Central Tech. The city said the facility did not comply with zoning regulations, and did not qualify for an educational-use exemption under city bylaws, either.
Not everyone has been receptive to a private company taking over school fields. A plan for Razor to build a recreational facility at Applewood Heights Secondary School in Mississauga was cancelled after the community raised concerns.
"While this decision will be greeted with approval by those opposed to the facility, it will be deeply disappointing to the majority of students, staff and families of Applewood Heights Secondary School, as well as those in the community who are in favour of and excited about this proposed facility," trustee Sue Lawton wrote to her community earlier this month.