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Toronto Pan Am Games an infrastructure upgrade catalyst, says organizer official

Lindsey Cole
Toronto Pan Am Games an infrastructure upgrade catalyst, says organizer official
The Aquatic Centre is just one of the venues built for the Pan Am Games. -

In order to prepare for this summer’s Pan Am Games, 10 new sporting venues had to be built and upgrades were needed at 15 existing facilities across Southern Ontario where the events will span.

"This historic event sparked an unprecedented push to build much-needed infrastructure and collectively what we can say is this is the largest sport infrastructure renewal that’s ever been undertaken in Canadian history," said Katherine Henderson, senior vice-president marketing and revenue at Pan/Parapan Amercian Games Toronto 2015, during the  recent Toronto Construction Association (TCA) annual general meeting.

"Just look at our governments’ announcements."

With 7,600 athletes coming from 41 different countries throughout the Americas, much preparation had to be made, Henderson stated as she thanked the construction industry for its efforts.

"You built places where we come together," she said, adding there are more than 30 venues in 16 municipalities.

"The Games are an event but they are also a legacy. I think it must be very rewarding to drive by all those public assets and be able to say ‘I helped build that.’"

With an overall infrastructure budget of about $674 million, some of the venues include an athletics stadium, aquatics centre, field house, velodrome and soccer stadium along with an athletes’ village in downtown Toronto.

Not all the construction and planning has been smooth sailing for the Games, with the $145-million Hamilton Pan Am soccer stadium facing significant delays, concerns arising as to how traffic and transportation will be managed, and discussions about the budget.

However, some venues and projects are receiving praise.

PCL was recently one of the companies who won the 2014 TCA Best of the Best Large Project Achievement Award for the Pan Am Games Aquatics Centre.  The facility features two Olympic-sized pools, a diving tank, training facilities as well as a number of services that will appeal to the broader community after the Games are over, Henderson explained.

The Milton, Ont. velodrome is also being recognized as a "game changer," she said.

The oval-shaped, three-storey velodrome is the sole facility of its kind in Canada and not only provides a new training facility for cyclists, but it also has three multi-course courts on the infield or bowl that can be used for basketball or volleyball games as well as other features for everyday users.

"Of course elite athletes are rare and there’s a broader legacy that goes beyond sport," Henderson noted.

"Many of us have heard lots and lots of conversations about white elephants that are built all over the world for Olympics. We have built community facilities that we scale up for our Games and then we can scale back down and give back to the community for their uses. Your skills as builders have helped us do something very very special. We have managed to build world class facilities that meet very strict international standards…at the same time they are flexible."

Henderson also pointed out that the Games are and will be an economic boost for the area.

"This will be the largest multi-sport international competition in Canada’s history," she said — bigger than the Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver Olympics and will likely have more than 1.4 million spectators.

"The overall economic impact is very large. It’s estimated right now that the Games have created 26,000 jobs in the region and the province right now has estimated the Games will boost GDP by about $3.7 billion."

She was also quick to point out that without those in the construction industry, none of it would have come to fruition.

"Your skills as builders boosted our confidence and they certainly boosted our chances in winning the ability to put on these Games. All of our different levels of government knew that you could deliver," she said.

"These will be the peoples’ places for a very very long time. This will be a different place after 2015."

The Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games take place July 10 to 26 and Aug. 7 to 15 respectively.

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