With the Pan Am Games having come and gone, and the Parapan Am Games coming to a close in a couple of days, Toronto's summer spectacles are nearly behind us, leaving in their wake an opportunity to reflect on their impact and legacy. Despite initial doubts concerning whether the games would attract the predicted tourism, investment, and public interest, Pan Am nonetheless managed to grip our attention following an eye-catching opening ceremony, heralding a sort of civic pride rarely seen in our city. The unsold tickets eventually got (mostly) sold, the hotel rooms more booked up, the local businesses boosted, and we even decided to keep our 'TORONTO' sign around long after its all over.
Yet, while the excitement of medal counts already starts to fade from public memory, what is left behind is an infrastructural legacy that—despite not getting many pulses racing—ensures the games leave behind a tangible and fiscally responsible set of socio-economic benefits. The games leave behind no ostentatious and overpriced empty stadium, but they do leave us an athletes village that promises to quickly transform into a vibrant neighbourhood, as well as new parks, amenities, transit, and public art throughout the GTHA.
Epitomizing much of what was good about these games, a new splash pad at Exhibition Place brings the Pan Am legacy directly into Parkdale's public realm. Located just south of the Dufferin Gate entrance, the splash pad sits beside a playground on the northern edge of the Exhibition grounds, easily accessible to nearby residents. While a new splash pad is usually certain to provide summer fun and refreshment to area children, what sets the installation apart is its incorporation of Pan Am public art into a public amenity.
Jointly funded by the City of Toronto Pan Am Showcase project and Exhibition Place, the $0.5 million installation features a central sculpture by Terraplan's Paul Marsala. In the middle of the splash pad, the conical bronze sculpture features the 36 Pan Am and 15 Parapan Am sports carved into its perimeter. During the day, the sculpture will serve as a subtle reminder of the bygone days, reminding children of the possibilities of sport as they play in the sun. At night, however, the nature of the space is transformed (below).
Once the sun goes down and the lights turn on, the sculpture's perforated text spills out in soft light onto the surrounding landscape, creating a light show that physically brings the Pan Am legacy into the public realm. A vivid interplay of light and shadow illuminates the area at night, bringing to life a feature that is more faintly visible in natural light (below).
According to Terraplan's Shadi Gilani, "the intention of the design is to evoke the magical sensory experience of interaction with water, when fantasy feels more intense than reality." The versatility of the light feature, meanwhile, also means that the installation enjoys "flexible uses throughout the year bringing energy and excitement to the area," serving as an eye-catching piece of public art in the months the splash pad is not in use. In those bitter winter months, the sculpture is certain to prove a bright and warm part of the Pan Am legacy worth being thankful for.
What are your thoughts about Toronto's Pan Am and Parapan Am Games' legacy? Have the Games directly impacted your life? Have you benefitted from any of the new facilities or public art works? You can take a look at a selection of the buildings which were built for the Games in the linked dataBase files below, and get in on the conversations in the associated Forum threads, or you can leave a comment in the space provided on this page.