Attendees at the May 22 public meeting were overwhelmingly opposed to a soccer bubble being built in one of the Eglinton Flats parks. By the end of the meeting, Councillor Frances Nunziata stated that while many people liked the idea of making soccer more available, including through year-round bubbles, “We’ve heard you loud and clear that Eglinton Flats is NO for a bubble, and that’s what it will be”.
The meeting, organized by Councillor Nunziata along with Parks & Recreation staff, was attended by about sixty people. It was called to consider an unsolicited proposal made to the City by the Toronto Soccer Association in partnership with a private company. They proposed to spend about $3 million to lay down an artificial turf soccer pitch covered by an air-supported roof structure, similar to the tennis bubbles in Eglinton Flats South-East. The Soccer Association would be the prime tenant, but the field could be made available free-of-charge to the City at specified times, during which the Association could provide free coaching to children who could not afford to play. If the City decided to pursue this proposal, it would issue an open Request for Proposals, but would allow the original proponent the opportunity to match any lower bid. The City would not sell the land, and would eventually become the facility’s owner.
The bubble would be located either in the SE or (preferably) NW Flats, adjacent to the existing change room building to which it would be connected. It would replace an existing grass playing field. The lighting would be inside the structure
Most attendees came from Emmett Avenue, but there was also a strong Mount Dennis contingent. Residents’ concerns focused on noise, traffic congestion (especially on Emmett Ave. and at the Eglinton turn-off) and the other disruptive effects of heavier year-round park usage. There was also concern about building in the flood plain, converting precious parkland into “hard” urban space, impacts on wildlife, effects of year-round lighting, and the aesthetic impact on enjoyment of the parks. Some speakers pointed out that this is a poor community and would receive very little benefit from the proposed facility.
Some soccer representatives spoke to the pressing need for more soccer fields, though others deplored converting a grass field to artificial turf and expressed sympathy for local residents’ concerns. Several attendees encouraged the City and proponents to look at other possible sites for a bubble, including industrial areas such as the Metrus (former Kodak) lands, the area near Rockcliffe yards, or a site beside the new community centre.
MDCA Executive members Lin Cheong, Noni Damolidis and Simon Chamberlain all spoke on behalf of MDCA, expressing many of these concerns.
At the end of the meeting, Parks spokesman Kevin Bowser noted that Toronto is short of 81 soccer fields, and that a year-round bubble would help meet that shortfall. Councillor Nunziata concluded that the bubble is a good idea in principle, and stated “we should be supporting the idea on another site”.
Simon Chamberlain, Secretary Mount Dennis Community Association