If all goes as planned, children in Leaside won’t have to be turned away from ice sports after September 2012. Representatives from Leaside Memorial Gardens, the Leaside Hockey Association, the Leaside Skating Club, and the Toronto Leaside Girls Hockey Association gathered at the arena Friday morning to officially launch the fundraising campaign for the expansion project.
City council had approved a $7 million loan to cover the majority of the $9.5 price tag with the community expected to raise the rest. Of the $2.5 million community portion, $1.4 million has already been raised.
“This project will mean more ice time for more kids closer to home,” said Paul Mercer, chairperson of the Arena Expansion Committee.
The plan to twin the 60-year-old arena on Millwood Road began in 1998 and with the project being added to the city’s capital budget it is finally coming to fruition.
“We come here now 12 years later and we can see the goal line,” Mercer said. “We’re getting really, really close to where we need to be.”
The project got a kick start in 2010 when a local family stepped forward with an anonymous donation that enabled the hiring of an architect and planning work with city officials to begin.
The city contribution will come from a city-guaranteed loan to be repaid through future operating revenues.
“This is an opportunity for the city to play a role without dipping into the taxpayers’ pockets,” said Don Valley West Councillor John Parker. “I do see this as a model of how other facilities can be built in the future.”
This is the first municipal arena to be built in the city in 30 years.
The expansion committee is on track to have a shovel in the ground in August and the second pad finished in September of next year – just in time for the 2012 ice season to begin.
The user groups are ecstatic at the thought.
“I am delighted. I’ve got hundreds of players who’ve never played a game here,” said Ron Baker, president of the Toronto Leaside Girls Hockey Association.
With about 1,000 players the association is large, but it’s grown all that it can for now.
“I do know that every year if we get a couple more hours of ice here and there we fill it instantly…We always have a waiting list,” Baker said.
This past weekend the association hosted a hockey tournament where 100 teams from around the province came to town; the tournament had to take place at 17 different rinks across the city. All proceeds from the tournament’s silent auction were pledged to the arena expansion.
Baker said the association has also agreed to the capital surcharge to pay back the city loan.
“We’re completely committed to this,” he said.
That’s the sentiment of all the user groups.
“We think we can raise a significant amount of money from our membership,” said Derek Woods, the president of the Leaside Hockey Association.
The association has installed a fundraising chairperson and the campaign launched in January.
Currently the club has just 20 per cent of its annual ice requirements met at the local rink.
“The hope is with twin pads we can improve the quality and quantity of these programs,” Woods said.
Parents have to drive their children to practice and games at rinks in Markham, Vaughan and Etobicoke where ice is available. Because of this and the desire to have their children play close to home, Woods believes his members will step up to assist with the fundraising.
One way community members can support the arena is through the GiveGet program where four per cent of the sale of gift cards will be contributed to the expansion project. So far Esso is on board and more businesses are expected to sign up.
Visit www.giveget.com/leasidearena for more information.