Ryerson’s ultra-modern Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) recently hosted the largest women’s world wheelchair basketball championship, which Canada won.
In the next year, wheelchair basketball along with men and women basketball will be played at the same facility as part of the Pan Am/Parapan Games.
“Basketball and wheelchair basketball will be two of the most popular sports at the Toronto 2015 Games and this is an incredibly intimate venue where you can be close to the action,” said the Games’ organizing committee chief executive officer, Saad Rafi.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said that staging the championships at Ryerson sets the scene for exciting competition and unprecedented opportunity for the province next year.
“Our government’s bid to host the 2015 Games will help create jobs, grow the economy and showcase Ontario on the world stage,” she added.
No one is more excited about international basketball coming to the MAC than the university’s athletic director Ivan Joseph who led the revitalization of the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens into a new $60 million multi-functional athletic and recreational centre for Ryerson students and the community.
“Having the venue selected to host the Games’ basketball championships certainly validates the assertion that we have a world-class facility here at Ryerson,” he said. “We hope that many Torontonians will come out and support our Canadian athletes in their own backyard.”
Joseph, who migrated from Guyana with his family at age five and attended King City Secondary School and Laurentian University before Graceland University in Iowa recruited him as a student-athlete in 1993, was extremely relieved when 74 per cent of the student population voted in favour of the new facility after a similar referendum turned it down five years earlier.
A total of 4,754 students voted with some 3,500 giving the university the green light to increase tuition fees by $126 to support the new facility.
In August 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper opened the centre that has accommodated several high-profile events, including the Ontario Liberal Party convention in October that year, the grand slam of curling, the ring of honour wrestling, Wake Forest men’s basketball team and the 2013 Jack Donohue International basketball classic featuring Canada and Jamaica.
“It was not an easy task, but we are finally at the point of feeling that we have all cylinders firing and the building and our teams are moving forward after a hectic period of construction and moving in at the MAC,” said Joseph who was the men’s soccer coach at Graceland.
Securing a soccer stadium has been a priority for Joseph who, in addition to his administrative duties, has coached the men’s team since arriving on campus six years ago.
“We are still actively looking for a facility to call home on a permanent basis for our women’s and national ranked men’s teams,” he said. “Right now, home is Monarch Park and we are working on developing a long-term relationship with them.”
Coming off their best ever season in 2013 that included an Ontario University Athletic (OUA) silver medal and a trip to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championship, Joseph is looking forward to coaching the team this season.
“I love coaching,” he said. “Being around student athletes really energises me and I still enjoy the teaching and relationship-building aspects that the role provides. I look forward to continuing to serve in the role as mentor and head coach for the upcoming season.”
With Joseph at the helm, Graceland won its first National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics soccer title and every varsity player that competed at least one season for him graduated.