A key part of Toronto's plans to host the 2015 Pan American Games hinges on students at the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus agreeing to contribute $30-million to the planned $170-million aquatics centre.
Students will go to the polls later this month on the fee proposal, which will add $280 to the cost of a school year for undergraduates when it takes full effect in 2014.
The Scarborough campus will be home to aquatics events during the Games - a facility with two Olympic-sized pools, a diving tank, gyms and fitness and training facilities is planned for the site. The province and federal government have agreed to pick up 56 per cent of the bill, with the remaining costs split evenly between the city and university. The University of Toronto is putting in $8-million, leaving students to cover 18 per cent of the cost, spread over 25 years.
"Students have been asking for this for many, many years, said Franco Vaccarino, principal at U of T Scarborough, where enrolment exceeds 10,000. Requests for a pool date back to 1976, he said.
The Games also are expected to bring improved transit to the campus and an extension of the city's LRT line.
"We are getting a $170-million [facility]for just $30-million - the decision is clear," said John Kapageridis, president of the Scarborough College Athletic Association and a fourth-year student at the campus.
The athletic and student associations on campus are campaigning for the yes vote and will hold a town hall meeting today with Toronto Mayor David Miller.
Not everyone is thrilled with the Pan Am proposal. The Association of Part-Time University Students is asking its members to reject the fee. "The cost is really prohibitive," said vice-president Joeita Gupta. Although part-time students will be asked to pay less, she said costs will add up because fees will increase 4 per cent annually.
The original plans to rebuild Varsity arena on U of T's downtown campus were scrapped after students refused to approve a fee to pay for it in 2002.
Mr. Vaccarino would not say if a scaled-down centre is an option if the referendum is defeated in the vote being held March 17 to 19. Ian Troop, Pan Am committee CEO, said he hasn't considered a contingency plan for the centre. "My belief is that the University of Toronto is very excited about the potential here," he said. But councillor Paul Ainslie, whose ward includes the campus, said if students decide not to shoulder the financial burden, organizers will have to find more cash or move elsewhere. Failure to come up with its share of the funding may mean U of T can't use the pool, he said - or that they would have to rent it from the city.
Mr. Ainslie said he hopes students will vote to pay for the pool.
The University of British Columbia gained a new $47.8-million arena from the 2010 Olympics, paid for by VANOC and $11-million from private donors.