New cricket ground creating buzz in Toronto

The game of cricket, a sport that is not popular among mainstream Canadian, is created a buzz among mainstream media as Ontario’s premier, Kathleen Wynne, government and private sector officials joined in celebrating the start of the construction of a cricket field on Tuesday.

The Valley Park Go Green Cricket Field project (VPGGCFP) as it’s known, is being constructed in one of the city’s priority neighbourhoods of Flemingdon Park and Thorncliff Park, an area with a growing immigrant population of mainly Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indians and Caribbean natives, who are cricket lovers.

The grassroots project first came to light two years ago when it hosted the Crazy for Cricket Sleepover: Toronto’s Biggest World Cup Cricket Party Ever!  The widely publicized event attracted more than 1000 people, adults and children, who slept overnight at the school to watch the ICC World Cup Finals projected on the back wall of the school gymnasium.

“It’s hard to believe it’s finally starting,” said Nick Stefanoff, Valley Park Middle School’s (VPMS)  Principal and co-chair of the VPGGCFP, now called the Valley Park Centre of Excellence. (VPCE). “We’ve overcome hurdles in trying to combine and sub-license unused Hydro land and a school yard. We could not have done this without the efforts of impassioned students and staff buoyed by the enthusiasm and dream of an entire community.”

Once an informal committee of driven staff and community activists, the group has transformed itself into an independent incorporated non-profit entity represented by a local board of directors.

Its phase one construction was facilitated by a collaborative partnership with the neighbourhood settlement services agencies TNO and FNS; its tax receipts issued by the TDSB’s arms length Toronto Foundation for Student Success.

In exchange for investing slightly more than $1.25 million in the expanded site, VPCE has negotiated exclusive permitting rights after 6 pm on school days and all day long on weekends and holidays.

VPCE’s goal is to deliver 80% of programming for free to at-risk youth while at the same time fund-raising to pay the TDSB to maintain the new sports field above normal standards.

Several youth cricket coaches, trained by VPCE last spring, successfully led an inaugural summer training camp and now teach clinics Tuesday and Thursday evenings in the VPMS gym. This year’s goal is to expand the local youth coaching capacity and to introduce additional sports for when the field opens for play in the summer of 2014. VPCE recently received a one-year grant from the City of Toronto’s Community Recreation Investment Fund Program to build this coaching capacity.

VPCE selected Rutherford Contracting to build Phase One after a competitive tender last fall. The $1.25 million Phase One builds a multi-sport field surrounded by a red clay running track, a bioswale, a wetland with a lookout/boardwalk, butterfly meadow and urban forest.

The first target of phase two fund raising is a quest for outdoor sports lights, which will make the project Canada’s first-ever cricket field with lights.

Phase two will also cover a multi-sport video scoreboard, amphitheatre-style seating, a refurbished multi-sport basketball court, a rooftop rainwater harvesting system, a community food garden, and a living donor wall.