Claims that the Pan Am games organizing committee is ignoring potential venues and not operating transparently are unfounded, says the head of Equine Canada which is thrilled at the selection of Caledon for equestrian events in 2015.
Peter Lush, owner of Cedar Run, a Collingwood area horse park, says he’s upset that having offered his facility as a venue no one from the bid committee came to visit or followed through.
At a Queen’s Park press conference he said his facility would not only be $8 million cheaper to develop to world class standards at $4 million, it has all the infrastructure of hotels and other accommodations for the 50,000 expected spectators and the participants in the surrounding Blue Mountain-Collingwood area.
“The cost overruns for endorse Caledon Equestrian Park in Palgrave will be horrendous,” he said.
“There’s no parking, no infrastructure, no accommodation, no food service and bussing everyone from Toronto will leave a huge loss of gate income.”
He said Palgrave will cost $12 million to upgrade prompting Ontario PC Pan Am games critic MPP Rod Jackson to question the transparency of the process.
“This decision was made four years ago,” he said.
“How many other decisions like this have been made without investigating alternatives? The point is not whether one facility is better than the other but whether the process is fair.”
Olympian and bid backer Paul Henderson has already created controversy around the games organizing bid committee, Toronto 2015, saying the budget threatens to balloon out of control when soft costs like policing and transportation are added on top of construction costs.
He has also raised flags over the lack of concrete budget disclosure and the paucity of signed construction contracts.
“The Pan Am tendering process must be competitive,” Jackson added.
But, Mike Gallagher, president of Equine Canada, the sport’s national body, said while Cedar Run is a spectacular park, it’s only just opened and is a private facility.
“Palgrave has been operating for 25 years and it’s a joint private-public ownership with the conservation authority,” he said. “It’s one of only two world class facilities in Canada, the other being in Calgary.”
The lack of accommodations and other infrastructure is a concern, he said, but noted the facility is only 30 minutes from Pearson International Airport, making for less stress in transporting horses. Also, he said, it’s an easy bus ride from Toronto.
“One of the factors in venues was that tax money shouldn’t go into private venues wherever possible,” he said.
“Palgrave’s private owner actually donated some land to the public authority to comply with that.”
He said if the bid process for the games started today, instead of in 2009, Cedar Park might well be in the running but at the time it was under development.
He said Equine Canada did not select a location, but made recommendations about what specifications a facility should have.
“We didn’t name Palgrave, we just said what kind of features the facility should have,” he said.
Toronto 2015 president Ian Troop declined a request for an interview but communications advisor Carlene Siopis said the process for equine events is the same as other sports.
“In the case of the equestrian events, three potential sites were considered, with Caledon Equestrian Park selected as the venue that most effectively met all criteria,” she said.
All factors were considered, including the cost, the public-private factor, compliance with international sport federation standards and the legacy for public use.
“TO2015 has followed this process with respect to the venue for equestrian events at the 2015 Games, and both national and international sport federations endorse Caledon Equestrian Park as the preferred venue.”