Nike reps, Mayor David Miller and parks and rec staff mugged for the cameras at the official opening of a new sports complex in Scarborough's troubled Malvern neighbourhood on May 17.
Wedged between Blessed Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School and the Malvern Rec Centre, the complex, which includes a soccer field, basketball courts and a 200-metre track, is intended to promote fitness in this "at-risk" neighbourhood.
Parks and rec, with the help of the Catholic school board, will manage the space. "Toronto continues to grow, and we haven't really kept pace with the need to develop a range of sports facilities across the city," says parks and rec partnerships manager Phyllis Berck.
But the newly formed Friends in Trouble Youth Initiative (FIT) has some serious questions about the wisdom of building more sports facilities as an antidote to youth violence.
"People think the only way to stop violence is through sports," says FIT coordinator Melissa McLetchie, who suggests programs for young people that emphasize math, science or the arts.
She adds that the Malvern courts are too small and may end up being the source of conflicts. "What if players don't want to get off them?"
In addition to funding for the complex, Nike Canada contributed $50,000-worth of athletic equipment. Nike spokesperson Michael Beleza says the company "worked very closely with the city to identify an area that needed a facility."
But should important recreational facilities have to be funded by the private sector? Dave Meslin of the Public Space Committee "We shouldn't have to wait for handouts," he says.
He's not buying Nike's good-corporate-citizen rap either. "If Nike were serious about helping out kids, it'd be building schools for the kids who are sewing its shoes."