News   Jan 17, 2020
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U of T: Back Campus Fields Project (conversion from grass to astroturf) COMPLETE

androiduk

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The story below provides a little background. Despite the opposition, city council approved the conversion and the field is now fenced off in preparation.




Toronto Star;

The University of Toronto’s back campus is either an idyllic field worth protecting or a mud pit that should be replaced with artificial turf so students can actually play sports on it.

It depends who’s doing the talking: prominent Torontonians and heritage activists or university and Pan Am Games officials.

City council will have to decide next week between these two warring visions after a surprise move last week by Councillor Adam Vaughan to have the university’s grass fields designated “a cultural heritage landscape.”

If council were to pass the city preservation board’s recommendation to designate the private property tucked in behind Hart House as a heritage landscape, it would spell the end of the $9.5 million 2015 Pan Am Games project for field hockey and para soccer.


The proposed Pan Am Games field hockey field at the University of Toronto. zoom

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“The University of Toronto was created in a pastoral setting to replicate the great universities of Europe. The back field campus has always been green,” Vaughan said. “It’s a new kind of thinking about heritage that’s made possible with the provincial heritage act.”

It’s also thinking that has left the U of T administration spitting mad.

“This is an improper, 11th-hour-and-58th-minute effort to scupper this project,” said Scott Mabury, vice-president of university operations, who added that no issues of heritage were ever raised before. “This project had the full, all-in support from the city in 2009 in the (Pan Am Games) bid book.
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“How do you protect grass that’s heritage if you’re going to play on it? Frankly, much of the year it’s a mud pit.”

The university was “absolutely blindsided” by Vaughan’s move in bringing this forward to the Toronto and East York Community Council on May 13 and then to the city’s preservation board on May 29, Mabury said.

There have been numerous Pan Am Games announcements about the field hockey and para soccer facility at U of T — attended by city staff and Toronto Councillor Mark Grimes, the city’s lead on the Games — and millions of dollars have already been spent on the project.

If council were to pass the preservation board’s recommendation, there will be “very significant financial liabilities that we will seek redress for,” Mabury said.

Vaughan is backed by a group of concerned citizens that includes author Margaret Atwood and architect Ken Greenberg.

As more information came to light about the project, Vaughan said, the group became more concerned about the biocides that will be used with the specialized turf, the potential for damage to elm trees and the 5,000-seat stadium.

“We all understand the potential short-term opportunity (of the Pan Am Games). The question is, should the short-term opportunity have an impact on the long-term health of the community?” Vaughan said.

But, according to the university, the project’s opponents are wrong on both the short and long-term impacts.

There will be no 5,000-seat stadium, only temporary seating that will be set up along the road where parking normally is and after the Games are over, the fields will be used for all university students and athletes, not just field hockey players, Mabury said. The university is proud of its 130-year-old American elm trees, and will protect them, having gone so far already as to move the site of the planned turf fields, he said.

Beneath all the misinformation, though, is something that may be harder to fight.

“There is this undertone of nostalgia for a day, decades, decades past when the university was smaller. When back campus was first a playing field in the late 1800s, we had hundreds of students, not 60,000 or so. Time has gone by. We have more needs now than we did before,” said Mabury.

It’s impossible, with the use the fields get and Canada’s climate, to keep grass alive but for a few months. That’s why even Toronto elementary schools are turning to artificial turf fields.

The artificial turf fields will allow students — both elite players and recreational athletes — to have more access than they do now because fields are often so muddy and pock-marked as to be unusable, Mabury said.

Bruce Kidd, warden of Hart House and a U of T professor, was taken aback by what he heard at the preservation board’s meeting.

“One of the members of the committee said, ‘I met my husband there; it’s really important that we keep those memories alive. I vote to designate the grass,’ ” Kidd said.

“First of all, the cultural heritage of the back campus has been sport for more than 100 years and, secondly, we’re not changing the landscape, we’re changing the surface to bring it up to what is a world standard and give our students the best possible facilities we can,” he said.

“They want to protect their memories at the expense of sport opportunities for students today.”
 
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Xray_Crystal_Junkie

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Front campus (the field on the other side of University College, to the south) is going to see a lot more traffic. I imagine it'll become torn up and much less picturesque for all the Chinese bus tours that frequent that spot daily.
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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Xray:

The front campus was supposed to be reconfigured as part of the Open Space masterplan, though that might have been shelved.

AoD
 

Xray_Crystal_Junkie

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I wasn't aware, thanks.

All I could find is this quote from here:
To improve connections to Hart House Green and the Front Campus.
I didn't realize they had such big plans for "Hart House Green", including removal of the Queen's Park Crescent overpass. That is a pretty underutilized space, but I don't see how they can better connect it to front campus as you have a fairly busy 3-way stop between the two. I'm curious what these improvements to Front Campus are. Increasing the size of the flower bed perhaps? It would be a shame if they reconfigured it to make it unsuitable for impromptu soccer/football.
 

intoronto1125

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Good thing City Council passed this because the insanity of designating grass as heritage is quite ridiculous. If they didn't want the field hockey venue going in they should have started back in 2009 when the bid book came out, not one month before construction was supposed to begin.
 

taal

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Moreover I LOVE artificial turf ! There is a giant field near Y&E, part of tridel's republic condo (the high school at the bottom to be specific).

Actually really excited for this, the bud pit was basically useless most many times of the year !
 

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