Two years after the three levels of government and other funding members committed to transforming the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club (ESBGC) into an attractive community hub, the interior and exterior refurbishment is complete on time and under budget.
The federal, provincial and municipal governments contributed nearly $1.3 million in funding while the Youth Challenge Fund (YCF) chipped in with $1 million to the project that was expected to cost about $4.7 million.
At last week’s official opening ceremony, the club’s executive director Ron Rock said the expansion cost was nearly $4.5 million.
“This seldom happens and it’s a credit to the amazing consultants we had from the city,” he said. “They did an incredible job of ensuring that the contractors understood their contracts and what was expected of them. That was what kept us in check.”
Upgraded from 12,000 to 22,000 square feet, the refurbished community centre boasts pristine art, recording and dance studios along with new community and multi-purpose rooms and a gym. A new roof was installed and the air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems were upgraded in the two-storey building.
Located at 100 Galloway Rd., the club has been providing neighbourhood solutions to community and social needs through its flagship social and recreational facility as well as 15 local satellite locations since 1957 when ex-cop Fred Gregory created a space to keep young people out of trouble.
The former Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Scarborough Municipal Police and Metropolitan Toronto Police officer, who now lives in Haliburton, attended the dedication ceremony.
“This is a proud moment for me,” said Gregory who started the Scarborough Police Boys Club that evolved into the Scarborough Youth Club and the ESBGC. “Back around 1955, there were gangs from West Hill and Ajax along with the Beach Boys who would come here and start trouble and fights with baseball bats and pipes. With the help of partners, I started the club to provide a space for youths to engage in productive activities. Many of those young people went on to become physical education teachers and athletic coaches across the country.”
This is the first time the club has been renovated since it was built in the early 1970s.
“This is a great day for Scarborough-Guildwood and for this club,” said area MPP Margarett Best. “These improvements will make it easier for our community’s youth to participate in recreational activities and certainly to lead healthier and more active lives.
“Arenas, playgrounds and recreational centres are more than bricks and mortar. They are places where we can reconnect with our neighbours, participate in physical activities and make our communities richer, healthier and better for everyone all round.”
Scarborough Centre federal MP Roxanne James noted that recreational facilities are vital social and athletic hubs for communities.
“They bring us together as families, friends and neighbours to have fun and, of course, stay active and, most importantly, healthy,” she said. “Our government has been working to promote better recreational facilities right across Canada because we recognize the key role that these projects play in encouraging local economic growth and maintaining a high standard of living here in Canada.”
Accompanied by his mother and three children, Scarborough East councillor Paul Ainslie was ecstatic to be back at his former club.
“I grew up in this area and I played floor hockey and basketball at this facility,” he said. “I never had to hang out on the street because there were always exciting things for me to do here. This facility means a lot to me and this community.”
The club’s youth council president Michaela Pompey said the upgraded facility has generated much excitement among the area’s youth.
“They are excited about the opportunities and resources that come with it which we did not have before,” she said.
Pompey predicts the Blue Jays clubhouse donated by the Jays Cares Foundation will be one of the most popular spaces for socializing, networking or simply just hanging out.
Outside of government, the Youth Challenge Fund (YCF) was a major donor.
The organization, created to offer opportunities to youth who face inequities across the city’s 13 priority neighbourhoods, makes direct grassroots investments in youth-driven initiatives that focus on creative approaches to engaging young people and providing opportunities for education, employment and leadership.
“This is a space in which young people can come to learn new skills, be active, express themselves artistically and build lasting relationships with their peers and community allies,” said YCF executive director Pamela Grant. “This space is also actually a symbol of how we have worked collaboratively to create something with a community that reflects all of our knowledge and experiences combined.
“This is systemic transformation brought to life and for us systemic transformation is a defining pillar and milestone in our YCF journey. By working together with young people from priority neighbourhoods and building their capacity to improve the community instead of trying to do it for them, we create an ultimately sustained and more meaningful and successful community.”
Liberal MP for Scarborough-Guildwood John McKay and former Toronto councillor David Soknacki, who donated his $30,000 severance pay from the city towards the refurbishment, also attended the dedication ceremony.