Sports institute proposed for T.O.

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

The City of Toronto finally will become a focal point for elite amateur athletes from across Eastern Canada instead of just a stopover on the flight to Calgary.

Construction of a National Sports Institute and Aquatic Centre to rival its Olympic sister in Calgary has been proposed for the University of Toronto's Scarborough campus.

It is part of the infrastructure that is being proposed by the bid committee to host the 2015 Pan Am Games in the Golden Horseshoe.

The $170 million proposal is a partnership that would see the federal and provincial governments cover 56% of the cost out of a $1.7 billion budget for the Games.

The U of T and the city will each kick in $37.5 million.

"It's a great plan and great win for the City of Toronto," Jagoda Pike, president and chief operating officer of the 2015 bid committee, said yesterday.

It will make Toronto a beacon for elite amateur athletes much like the national sports institute that is currently situated in Calgary.

Many Olympic-calibre athletes from Ontario have had to go west to find adequate training and coaching and have access to medical facilities.

"We have fallen behind. This is way overdue," said Pike.

"It's a place where high performance athletes can have access to all services: Training, medical, therapeutic, research.

"One of the reasons we like the location and partnership is because universities tend to add quite a bit of value to a national sports institute, like the one that's in Calgary."

Markham also had hoped to be selected as the site for the Institute which had been languishing on the drawing board since the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

Toronto city council's executive committee will vote on the spending proposal next week and city council will be asked to endorse the plan at a meeting in February.

The aquatic centre will be capable of hosting international events after the Pan Am Games.

It will include diving towers and two 10-lane, 50-metre pools.

The aquatic centre will be linked to a multi-sport field house and gymnastic centre.

The committee hopes to unveil plans for other facilities throughout the Golden Horseshoe within the next few weeks.

It's formal bid book, outlining complete plans for the Games, must be presented to the 42-member Pan Am Games committee at the end of April.

The host city -- Bogota, Colombia and Lima, Peru have also made bids to host the 2015 Pan Am Games -- will be named this fall.


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