It may have been a chilly three degrees outside Tuesday, but that didn’t stop dozens of Lakeshore Collegiate Institute (LCI) students from donning shorts and T-shirts and enjoying some outdoor sports during their lunch hour.
About 100 LCI Phoenix took advantage of the school’s newly erected seasonal dome – which was installed just last week and will remain up each year from early November to late April – to burn off some energy playing pick-up games of soccer, football and baseball in the new temperature-controlled space during their midday break from classes.
“The dome gives us a lot of flexibility for a lot of sports – ultimate frisbee, rugby, soccer, football,” LCI Principal Antonio Santos said from inside the dome Tuesday, as he watched groups of teens running around and enjoying the heated space. “It allows the students to be a lot more active, because in the winter especially, they usually just sit around at lunch. This way, they get some exercise.”
The $2.1-million dome project – part of public-private partnership between the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and Nustadia Recreation Inc. – has been years in the making.
It began back in November 2009 with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s donation to LCI of an $800,000 FIFA artificial turf soccer field.
While the turf was installed in April, marking the completion of the project’s first phase, following through on phase two of the LCI sports centre proposal – to add a dome to the project to ensure the turf field’s use year-round – has proved a more onerous and controversial task.
Local residents decried the then-imminent dome as a “monstrosity,” likening it to a “giant marshmallow” in their backyards during several community meetings between local residents, city and TDSB officials and representatives from Nustadia during the project’s early incarnations.
Originally slated to be installed in the northwest corner of the LCI campus – with the western-most boundary of the 68-by-105 metre turf and dome abutting within metres of the backyards of Twenty-Second Street residents – the turf and dome project was later relocated to within the school’s track onto the existent football field to address those proximity complaints.
And now that it’s finally up, Santos said, the dome has proven a valuable addition to the LCI campus.
“Although it’s big, it’s kind of unobtrusive in its little corner here in terms of the neighbourhood – you can see it, but it’s not something that’s an eyesore. It’s pleasantly integrated within the school campus,” he said.
“We’re pleased with the fact that it’s finally up; we’re pleased with what it actually is and the potential that it has for the school in terms of programming, especially for the students and the community. I think there’s a lot of potential here,” Santos added, noting that LCI retains use of the turf and dome throughout the school day until around 5 or 6 p.m., at which time Nustadia is allowed to permit the facility out to community groups.
And so far, the LCI Sports Centre is proving a popular draw for sports groups of all stripes – from youth minor soccer leagues, to rugby, lacrosse and baseball teams, said the facility’s general manager, Tim Watson.
“We’re getting lots of interest. I would say it’s about 60-65 per cent booked,” Watson said, noting that the weekday 6 to 9 p.m. time slots are pretty well booked at this point, but that weekend times are still readily available.
The dome has been open and in operation since last week, Watson added, noting that aside from a few parking woes, the reviews of the facility have so far been glowing: “It’s a fantastic facility for the community and a lot of kids are getting great use out of it.”
Watson said the community is also invited to drop in to check out the new dome facility weekdays between 5 and 9 p.m. For those wishing to actually try out the facility, the centre is also hosting late-night, drop-in soccer programs for those aged 16 and up on Thursday and Friday nights from 10 p.m. to midnight for $10 a person.
As for the students of LCI, who so far have been using the dome for gym classes and after-school sports team practices, a pep rally on Friday will serve as the formal introduction to their newest addition.
“Everyone who’s been in it so far says that they love it. They say it’s a good addition because now we have the flexibility to either use the gym or we can come out here,” said 17-year-old student Devin Sarges, who also works part-time for Nustadia at the dome. “This place is bringing people together.”
For more information on permitting the facility, go to lcisportscentre.com or contact Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 647-466-3410.