City drops ball at stadium
Lamport Stadium, home of Argonauts football in the 70s and where the Who fans lined up for concert tickets in the 80s, faces an uncertain future after falling into disrepair over the last decade. What to do with the 10,000-seat monument?
Some among those who turned up for community consultations with the Parkdale Liberty Economic Development Corporation on October 5 want the city to keep the green and do away with the concrete stadium. Other ideas floated at the meeting include building a daycare or community centre.
"There is a real lack of green space in that area," says Parkdale Residents Association president Craig Peskett . "Lamport's crushed between the Ex and the Gardiner, and there are very few ways to access the waterfront. It could be something great."
The future of Lamport has been in limbo since 2001, when a proposed revitalization was halted after the city lost its Olympics bid and the Canadian Soccer Association and the Argos pulled out of deals to rent the venue. The city rejected several other lease proposals from sports organizations. Toby Berger of the Toronto Field Hockey Club notes that if the stadium were made available for a range of sports including frisbee, rugby and football, the community would come down more often.
"One of the reasons it isn't being used is because people think it's closed," he says, pointing out that no signage identifies the stadium from King Street.
Berger's preferred option, however, may not be up for discussion. The city is looking for a private partner to develop the land. The plan being discussed, says Parks spokesperson Doug McDonald , includes commercial space and a fitness club along King, and putting a bubble over the stadium to make it usable year-round.
Massive condo development is slated for lands directly north of the King West location, but McDonald says these won't be high-rise units.
Parks and rec along with the planning department hope to file a request for proposal before Christmas, to be decided on in February or March. But Parkdale-High Park council candidate Gord Perks says the city hasn't made enough of an effort to consult community groups to find a plan that'll work decades from now.
Says Perks, "Anyone who says the city will come in tomorrow and put in a community use is not being honest."
Labour disses service agency
Central Neighbourhood House's revered 100-year history of helping families in Cabbagetown seems to be matched only by its record of labour troubles in recent years. About 25 unionized workers and members of the community agency's board picketed outside its Parliament Street housing and community support offices on September 29.
The workers, who earn on average $15 per hour, were protesting a five-year wage freeze, but Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 4308 president Kelly O'Sullivan says the union is just as concerned about the way the centre is being run.
O'Sullivan contends that budget deficits that led to the wage freeze as well as the closing of the agency's drop-in centre on Jarvis are a result of mismanagement.
Before their most recent pay increase of 2 per cent in 2003 -- which came on the heels of another staff walkout -- O'Sullivan says workers went almost a decade without a raise.
A summer youth program was also shut down last summer, but CNH executive director Danny Anckle says that was more because of noise complaints and a lack of adequate supervision than financial constraints.
Anckle says CNH, which relies on about $4.2 million in funding from the United Way, the city and the Ontario government, is committed to offering workers a pay hike, but only once the agency is out of the red. He says CNH is facing a "significant" budget deficit of $58,000 for the rest of the year. (Of note, CNH's budget hasn't been cut in recent years, but has been flatlined.)
Anckle says the centre has offered to show the union its books, "but we're not at a place where we can give a pay increase at this point."
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty member Mike Desroches , who was also at the CNH protest, says CNH's woes are occurring in a context of mounting pressure by locals to cut back on social services in the entire Cabbagetown area.
"Everything is under attack in this neighbourhood," says Desroches.
O'Sullivan agrees. "There needs to be a commitment from management to work with the union to try to advocate more funding for services, but also a commitment to working to rebuild our house."