Pan Am Games won't bring gridlock, organizers say

Toronto won't face major disruptions during the 2015 Pan Am Games, even though most of the events will take place in the city, politicians and Games organizers say.

Number of venues scaled back to save money

Toronto won't face major disruptions during the 2015 Pan Am Games, even though most of the events will take place in the city, politicians and Games organizers said Friday.

Organizers are scaling down the geographic scope of the Games with more sports in fewer venues to stay within its $1.4-billion budget. But they couldn't say how much they're saving by reducing the footprint.

The revised venue plan, which still requires final approval, involves 11 municipalities and three universities hosting 36 sports.

The original 2009 Toronto 2015 bid book involved 16 municipalities hosting 36 sports at more than 40 venues.

The plan combines new construction and existing facilities — such as the Toronto Pan Am complex on the Exhibition grounds — which will either be renovated or revert back to their original shape after the Games are over, said TO2015 CEO Ian Troop.

"Clustering" the events in fewer sites will create an "affordable, accessible" Games and facilities that will benefit their local communities long after the athletes go home, he said.

Seven core venues — or clusters — that will host two or more  sports will be in the Toronto area. That could create headaches for Toronto's 2.5 million residents who will have to share space with about a million visitors that organizers are expecting to descend on the city during the Games.

But commuters anxious about gridlock and getting around the city during the massive event don't need to worry, Troop said.

"That's an important thing, and in any Games you've got to be able to move athletes and officials efficiently and you've got to move spectators to different venues," Troop said.

"One of the great advantages of clustering is it simplifies our footprint tremendously, which I think will aid in how we move people."

Charles Sousa, the Ontario minister responsible for the Games, said the province has a plan to keep people moving. There will be dedicated GO Transit lines going from Toronto to Hamilton — which is hosting soccer instead of volleyball — and there are high-occupancy vehicle lanes on the 400-series highways that will help people get around, he said.

The athletes' village, situated in the city's core, won't be far from some of the venues and should be accessible by bike or on foot, Sousa said.

"Vast improvements" will be needed in the north part of the city, but there's a lot of co-operation from residents, he said.

"People recognize that we want to make certain those athletes got to where they had to go in an appropriate time," Sousa said.

"I think Torontonians, Ontarians will be tolerant in those couple of weeks."

Inconvenience will be worth it, Ford says

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who campaigned to stop the "war on cars," was equally optimistic.

"Of course people know they're going to be inconvenienced, but I think that's the price of hosting the Games and I think people will understand that," Ford said.

"We're all working off the same page and we'll put the city on the map once and for all. I know it's going to be a huge benefit to all the taxpayers in the city."

Toronto Pan Am Park on the Exhibition grounds will host more than a dozen sports, such as road cycling, triathlon, squash and rugby.

The University of Toronto's downtown complex will host field hockey, roller sports and handball.

Basketball will also be concentrated in the city, while sailing will take place on Toronto Island.

To the east in Scarborough, the University of Toronto's campus will host aquatic and field sports such as swimming, diving and pentathlon.

In the city's west end, Etobicoke will host archery, BMX cycling and bowling, while Mississauga will be the centre for combat sports.

In the north end, York University's complex will host track and field and tennis, while Markham will host water polo, badminton and table tennis, among other events.

Events will also be spread throughout southern Ontario, including equestrian sports in Caledon and Orangeville, canoe and kayak in  Welland and Minden Hills, mountain biking in Oro-Medonte, rowing in St. Catharines and boxing in Oshawa.

Negotiations are underway with Milton for a velodrome for track cycling. Organizers say they're also reviewing proposals for an eighth cluster to host baseball and softball and are in discussions for a site for shooting sports.

Golf Canada will also seek proposals from course operators in the region to host golf during the Games.

But there's still a long way to go before the facilities are up and running, Troop said.

"But we've got the important 25 per cent across all of our venues that we're building, which will set the stage coming up in '12 to be ready for '14," he said.

Final plans for the cost structure of tickets — which could include multiple-entry passes and family packages — won't be final until the end of 2013, Troop said. Tickets won't go on sale until 2014.

Of its overall budget, $674 million will go toward capital costs such as new venues and renovating existing facilities. Another $767 million is budgeted for the operations of staging the Games. The fiscal plan also sets aside $82 million as a contingency fund.

The federal and Ontario governments are contributing $500 million each, with Ontario providing an additional $22 million to renovate Ivor Wynne Stadium.

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the government is investing in the Games because they will have a "long-lasting, positive economic impact" on the country.

"Hosting the Games in 2015 will have enduring economic benefits for the GTA, the region and our nation as a whole," he said at the news conference. "That is why the Games were mentioned specifically in the (federal) budget this year."

The Games will help create construction jobs in the short-term and boost tourism in the long-term, Flaherty said. 

Municipalities, universities and venue owners will be kicking in $228 million for the infrastructure built in their communities. The committee also plans to raise $153 million from sponsors, tickets and other sources of revenue.

The budget doesn't include the cost of building the athletes' village — which falls to the province — or the Markham Fieldhouse,  which is being picked up by the municipality.