TORONTO – As Toronto prepares for its role as the first North American municipality to host World Pride, City Council today called on the federal government to help fund the development of the world’s first LGBT-led sport hub, spearheaded by The 519 Church Street Community Centre.
A motion put forward by Councillor Pam McConnell and seconded by Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly received a vote of 37-2, demonstrating council’s overwhelming support for a project that would place Toronto at the forefront of the global movement championing diversity in sport.
The issue of LGBT inclusion and acceptance in sport became a global conversation during the Sochi Olympics earlier this year. This month, video sharing giant YouTube dedicated the entirety of its Pride month celebration to the issue of sport, with a campaign called #ProudToPlay. And in May, Michael Sam became the first openly gay man drafted to the NFL. There is a sea change happening in terms of LGBT inclusion in sport, and this project presents an opportunity for Toronto to demonstrate real leadership and vision.
“It is exciting to see Toronto’s political leadership come together around the creation of this welcoming, inclusive space. This centre is being developed in response to a very real need within our community and across the City,” said Maura Lawless, Executive Director of The 519. “As we celebrate WorldPride, our city must continue to demonstrate international leadership on issues of inclusion and acceptance, and this project will serve as a beacon for that work to the world.”
The 519, a City of Toronto agency, received council approval in 2013 to pursue a site for the development of a community sport and recreation centre that will serve its local neighbourhood, while providing focused programming and space for Toronto’s diverse LGBT communities. The new centre will help to address Toronto’s community and recreation infrastructure deficit and will act as a hub for community services, athletics and recreation.
Today’s motion calls upon the federal government to come to the table as a funding partner for the project, which will be a public-private partnership between the LGBT community, its donors and the City of Toronto.
Under the proposed funding model, two thirds of the cost of the project will be covered through community and corporate donations, with the City retaining ownership of the iconic facility, which will be the first of its kind in the world.
“This centre will reinforce Toronto’s international reputation as a city committed to cultural diversity and inclusion. Sport is the perfect vehicle to reinforce this message,” said Councillor McConnell.
In addition to hosting sport facilities and league activities, the facility will provide valuable social service offerings to the local community and will provide important community economic development and employment opportunities through training, internship and social enterprise business.
The new facility will also act as a research lab, a place where our communities can design , test and share best practices for developing inclusive sport and recreation programming and the centre will generate tourism, and sport hosting opportunities.