Why this man’s plan for an elite sports training space started a storage war in Oshawa

A dispute over how prime space at a state-of-the-art, four-pad ice rink in Oshawa should be used is headed to city council for a final ruling next month.

On one side is local hockey dad Kirk Lowe, the architect of a plan to turn the second floor of the city-owned Delpark Homes Centre into a non-profit, high-tech training facility for young athletes.

On the other, a group of local cultural, sports and seniors groups who currently use that space for storage.

Lowe says Oshawa needs to show everyone the city isn’t going to fold with the loss of jobs at the local General Motors plant.

“This is for the kids, the community, and, as importantly, the city,” Lowe said. “This is a city on the upswing. Everybody thinks that’s it’s just about GM leaving, and poor Oshawa.

“It’s not really the case.”

Lowe’s vision includes stretching areas, storage and change rooms, practise pads for different sports, an artificial turf sprinting strip and other facilities The second floor space covers about 511 square metres.

Much of it is currently covered by wire-mesh storage lockers that are used by 25 organizations, including youth clubs, seniors and community groups — even Ontario Power Generation’s emergency response team.

And judging by a recent city survey, they’re not prepared to budge.

“We’ve been using those facilities for, I think probably, 15 years,” said Howard Smith of the Driftwood Theatre Group.

“It is such a beautiful, well-organized, well-equipped space. It would be a shame to lose it.”

As for the idea of a sports training facility taking over the space, Smith isn’t keen.

“It seems to me that that could be set up just about any place.”

Lowe says he’s secured about $250,000 to create the facility so far. He said it would be overseen by a board and operated as a non-profit.

The board would rent the space from the city and hire professional trainers to work with young athletes from various sports, he says.

Costs would be covered, Lowe says, by fees that parents would pay for their children to use the training centre.

Lowe says he believes the facility could generate about $3,000 a month in revenue for the city — far more than it makes renting out lockers at $80 a year.

Lowe made his latest pitch to a joint meeting of Oshawa council’s development and community services committees Thursday. The committees met to discuss a city survey of the groups that currently rent storage lockers there. That survey showed only two of the 19 groups that responded supported Lowe’s proposal unconditionally.

Nine of the 19 said they’d be willing to give up their space, provided they could find similar accommodation elsewhere.

The two committees voted to recommend against Lowe’s idea when it goes before council.

Even so, one committee member, Coun. Rosemary McConkey, told CBC Toronto she’s supportive.

“Basically, it’s storage versus an athletic youth training centre,” she said. “The city has over a hundred other facilities. Surely we can find storage somewhere else to accommodate the community groups.”


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