TORONTO, December 23, 2013 ( – A homosexual organization is banking on Canadian taxpayers to partially foot the bill to build what it calls the “first ever LGBTQ-focused” sports and recreation centre in Toronto.

The 519 Church Street Community Centre (the 519) estimates it will cost $100 million to turn the Wheel and Foundry site on Eastern Avenue in the West Don Lands into the new LGBTQ sports centre. It anticipates that $34 million of that will be covered by municipal, provincial, and federal governments tax-generated grants. 

While Maura Lawless, executive director of the 519, says the facility would be open to all, a proposal to the city states the center would offer a “range of spaces” for LGBTQ “community activities.” 

“Currently, there are no dedicated spaces for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered, Queer (LBGTQ) people to participate in sport and recreation. The issues of homophobia and transphobia in organized sports are well documented,” the proposal states. 

Matthew Cutler, director of the 519’s strategic partnership initiatives, said that the proposed facility would “create a space that’s inclusive of everyone,” adding that it would include washrooms and change rooms that are “inclusive and welcoming,” reported National Post

The 519 presented its proposal before Toronto’s community development and recreation committee on Dec. 4. City council voted 28-2 on Dec. 18 to authorize city staff to build a business plan for the project. 

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Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor James Pasternak voted against the proposed development. 

Prior to the vote Pasternak asked if the city’s community centers had a history of discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation. No reports existed, he was told.

“Do you think that the philosophy of this community centre will set a precedent to other groups, that maybe they’ll want one based on ethnic, religious, racial lines, that we’re going down a path, maybe a risky path,” he asked. 

The Federal ministry of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Construction on the 519 Athletic Centre would begin at the end of 2015 and the facility is anticipated to become operational in 2017. Once built the facility would be owned by the city, but operated by the 519. 


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