Toronto’s parks and recreation centres, arenas and outdoor ice rinks, pools, playgrounds, sport amenities, pathways and other facilities are aging, and the cost of bringing them into a state of good repair is escalating. State of Good Repair (SOGR) costs are increasing due to supply chain disruptions and inflation. As the backlog grows, the cost of maintaining and repairing facilities increases. Despite prioritizing critical work, unplanned closures and interruptions to programs and services have occurred.
The day-to-day maintenance of Parks, Forestry and Recreation (PFR) facilities are funded through the tax-supported operating budget, while SOGR projects are financed by debt and community capital investments, historically funded by Development Charges and Section 37 funds. With available funding, PFR prioritizes:
In 2019, City Council approved the 2019-2038 Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan (FMP) to build and renew facilities to meet recreation needs of a changing Toronto. Funding for the FMP is not fully reflected in PFR’s 10-Year Capital Plan due to fiscal pressures. Additional unfunded SOGR capital needs are not included in the PFR 10-Year Capital Plan due to the limitations of debt servicing costs and have been included on the list of “Capital Needs Constraints” to be considered during future year budget processes. Furthermore, any legislative changes to the collection of Development Charges, Community Benefit Charges and Parkland Acquisition funds may have a significant impact on the City’s ability to fund capital projects in PFR’s 10 Year Capital Plan.
Toronto’s parks and recreational facilities are valued at over $5.6 billion and includes more than 1,500 parks, 124 community centres, 858 playgrounds, nearly 700 sports fields, 118 pools and other indoor and outdoor facilities. On an annual basis, there are close to 500,000 recreation registrations, 1.5 million drop-in visits and 64 million visits to City parks. The average community recreational facility was built before 1978 and operates 16 hours a day year-round. After nearly 50 years of intensive use, these buildings need updates to windows, roofs, washrooms, HVAC, electrical systems and more. Many artificial ice rinks and swimming pools were built in the same era and face similar issues.
Deferral of SOGR work impacts the City’s ability to deliver quality park and recreation experiences. For example, the FMP found that over a four-year period there were 32 unscheduled closures lasting one week or more due to roof leaks, burst pipes, condenser and chiller failures, pool liners, pumps, filtration, and dehumidification. Collectively, these events resulted in 1,900 lost days of public access to recreation. Ongoing and timely investment in state of good repair is required to maintain current service levels and accommodate growth and demonstrates the City’s commitment to the well-being of people and neighbourhoods.
Through the implementation of the Facilities Master Plan, PFR will engage with and consult Indigenous communities to help identify priority centres for SOGR investments and to identify parks and recreation facilities for Indigenous place keeping.
Funding for new community infrastructure typically targets high growth areas rather than lower-income neighbourhoods where many equity-deserving groups reside. While SOGR projects may not garner the same public attention as new buildings, these investments are vital to maintain parks and recreation infrastructure, ensuring Torontonians are served equitably, wherever they live.
General Manager, Parks, Forestry, and Recreation