With the removal of the fencing, flagpoles and temporary footpaths and the return of pathways to pedestrians and Hoskin Street to drivers, the St George campus has shed its temporary Toronto 2015 Games wrap as it prepares to welcome a throng of students next month. But the success of bringing the Games to the campus was largely due to the contribution of many U of T staff.
Three years ago, with logistical plans not yet finalized and plans still in infancy, agreements were signed with TO2015 to welcome the Games to three St George campus venues: Back Campus – known as PanAm ParaPan Am Fields for the duration of the Games – would host field hockey during the PanAm Games and 5-a-side and 7-a-side football during the Paras, while Varsity would be archery’s home for the duration of both Games. Goldring was set aside as a training venue. The planning could begin.
Those of you who have been through the rigmarole of wedding planning, the mounting of a Broadway production, or perhaps the election of a new kid on the political block will know that while the bride and groom, singing starlet or party leader have the limelight, it is that cast of hundreds, if not thousands, without whom the show would not have gone on. And so it was with the operations management of the Games on St George campus.
While Varsity existed already, Goldring and a revitalized Back Campus three years ago were still plans on a page; Adrienne De Francesco and the Project Management team ensured that while ideas were being formulated by TO2015 for what would go in and on each of the sites, there would actually be sites to be in and on!
Over 150 site visits took place in the 18 months preceding the Games, in all sorts of weather, often with no advance notice and usually involving a myriad of colleagues from University Operations and Kinesiology and Phys Ed (KPE). It soon became clear to all that we would only succeed if we kept our lines of communication open, our support of each other strong, and the success of the Games – and the legacy it is providing to U of T – uppermost in our minds.
KPE, which manages all three venues and whose staff, under the proactive guidance of Anita Comella, Andy MacDonald, Chris Dickins and Beth Ali, was charged with smoothing so much of the day to day facility-oriented activities, were some of the biggest cheerleaders in the lead up to – and for the duration of – the Games, integral in both the Back Campus revitalization and Goldring build, as well as with all of the preparations and programming these projects and events required. Ian Stephen, Dave Wakabayashi, Courtney Frappier and Duc Ghoi all stepped in daily to assist TO2015 staff housed in the facility, and took on unanticipated tasks and responsibilities throughout the Games, as the event organizing bodies made last minute changes or requests.
To ensure that the visuals and audio for each event came through loud and clear, both on site and at home, Doug Carson, Rudy Limberger, Vlad Kouptchinski and Paul Morrison, along with their central ITS and KPE IT teams, managed the laying of cable, the installation of fibre and the AV booth production.
With every fence, every sound check and every route block that was proposed by TO2015, stakeholders needed to be consulted: University College, Trinity, Hart House, Munk and Wycliffe College all lost some access routes, frontage and aesthetic appeal. Fortunately, over the decades, strong ties have been forged with all and they collaborated throughout the planning with U of T Operations Management and with TO2015 to ensure that, as much as possible, their programming, activities and events could continue while the Games proceeded.
Regardless of where fences were erected, grass needed to be cut, trees pruned and plants watered, and Stan Szwagiel, Peter Johnston and the Grounds crew managed to keep the campus beautiful both within the fence lines and outside. They were also responsible for erecting the wayfinding signage that got people where they needed to go on their way to and from the Games events. In addition, when external planners were unable to facilitate the work, Stan and his team took on the installation of the accessibility features on Back Campus’ southwest and southeast ends – on time and within budget!
Waste management is always a concern when large groups come to campus; while TO2015 was responsible for the caretaking inside the perimeter, it is uncanny how often people carry their garbage and recyclables from a venue, only to toss them indiscriminately outside. Reno Strano, Wayne Shaw, Ivo Sousa and their teams managed to keep our campus clean and tidy – inside and out – for the duration of both the overlay/fit out and the Games.
While the Games’ integrated securities unit was ultimately responsible for Games security within the perimeter, Sam D’Angelo, Dan Hutt and our Campus Police officers as well as Steve Arnold and his crew at Fire Prevention Services provided their expertise and guidance throughout the planning process, advice that proved invaluable to TO2015 both at our venue and as best practices for other Games venues across Southwestern Ontario.
Blair Mochrie, Glen Murray, Murray Haire and Todd Copeland and their teams got the lights shining and the power pumping on Back Campus while also providing support to TO2015 at Varsity and Goldring, and James Scordino and our elevator team ensured that staff, students and PanAm teams could get where they needed to smoothly, safely and securely.
Property Manager David Wood provided facility support while Legal, Risk Management, High Risk and AODA, Labour Relations and Human Resources all worked diligently to ensure that our staff and facilities were accorded the respect and care that they deserve as agreements were drawn up and executed.
Anne MacDonald and Clayton Hillis of Ancillary Services reviewed contracts and provided invaluable support to U of T and TO2015 through discussions and agreements on residence room rental, alcohol and food service to ensure that at no time were our staff, students or venues put at risk.
And what would an event be without a way to celebrate it? Our website (http://panam2015.utoronto.ca/) needed almost minute-by-minute updating as the schedules were changed and finalized, the countdown began and the medals started pouring in! 20,000 people visited our website during the month of July alone – and over 44% of those hits were from general Google searches. Liz Do, Natasha Smith and Erin Lemon of Communications ensured that schedules were available, graphics were clear and enticing and that information was as up-to-date as possible given the myriad events, articles and programs ongoing across our campus.
Outside the Operations mandate, programming initiatives such as U of T House, KPE and Hart House programming, academic symposia and art installations celebrated the Games both for several years prior to, and for the duration of, the Games. Hundreds of our community were involved in the planning and presentation of these incredible initiatives, and all were showcased on our website, and throughout university communiques.
President Gertler has underscored the importance of leveraging our urban location more fully, for the mutual benefit of university and city. As we head in to another term, we can commend ourselves for the collaborative success of the Games on this campus, and the incredible legacy that they have left us, and our community.
Games facts on St George Campus:
1.7 kms of fence line
3.7 km2 of walkway laid over grass and turf
22 porta potties
Scaffold Seating for 2000
8 full sized trailers
8 sea containers
750 volunteers on our campus
100+ paid Games staff (TO2015, security, catering, cleaning, etc)