In 1993 my wife and I moved into our current home on Guelph’s eastern border kiddy corner what was then the City of Guelph’s Landfill. It is easy today, particularly for many of the residents in Guelph’s east end who have moved to the neighbourhood after the dump was closed, to forget that the dump was a contentious and contested issue. Everyone produces garbage, yet no one seems to want to bear the responsibility of receiving someone else’s. While we were not crazy about having the dump close to us, in fairness it really did not affect our quality of life and after all, we knew it was there when we bought our property. In fact, the biggest detectable change that came with the dumps closure, was the sudden lack of seagulls flying overhead! Until now. What used to be a pile of stinking refuse, is now home to the finest sports fields in the city. The east end, often ignored in terms of services and facilities is on the map!
For years Guelph’s athletes have toiled on facilities that while serviceable, were certainly of lesser quality than they experienced when they visited other southern Ontario communities. With a soccer field deficiency partly rectified, word has come that city staff has recommended the construction of a south end community center containing two ice rinks, an aquatics complex, a gymnasium, and meeting rooms. Having spent the last 10 years carting my daughter to every imaginable arena complex in southern Ontario, I have formed an opinion on the matter. Guelph’s most recent and presumably finest recreational complex, the West End Recreational Complex, is inferior to virtually every other towns similar complex. I recognize that someone has to be last, but if it has to be us, I wish we had the low property taxes that ought to accompany poor facilities.
The south end community center, ought to be an election issue this year, and hopefully it is. Certainly it is a large budget item ($59 million) in a budget which many would contend is out of control to begin with. Nonetheless, a premier city, (which we ought to be) deserves premier facilities and the south end, and indeed Guelph on the whole, needs not only more, but better community centers.
A city’s recreational facilities and public buildings, I believe, are a reflection of the city itself. When minor sporting tournaments are held in the city, they ought to be viewed as an opportunity to showcase our community to visitors from other towns. Just as we would not invite company to dinner and refuse to shower for the occasion, we ought not be satisfied having visitors constantly entertained at subpar facilities. (I had the pleasure of watching a rep hockey game at exhibition arena and felt like apologizing to parents from the other team!) We would after all, like to leave visitors with the impression that Guelph is a fine place to both live and invest. Or at the very least, we would like for them to continue to visit and send a few dollars while they are here. The Guelph Girls Hockey Association’s annual tournament has had to begin to cancel divisions while other communities maintain waiting lists. Yes, new facilities cost money. Empty hotel rooms come at a cost as well.
Finally, it would appear with the recent additions and proposed additions of facilities, the pendulum has begun to swing the other way. Hopefully, the council guiding the pendulum has the wisdom required for the task.
Thanks for reading, and Happy Canada Day!