York Urbanist

GTA West Corridor – A Blast Through the Greenbelt

February 25th, 2015
Healthy Communities, Recreation, Trails, Transportation issues

GTA West Corridor map

I am a co-author of trails master plans for York Region and the City of Vaughan. I have had correspondence with others regarding the GTA West Corridor particularly about how its construction will impact cycling and pedestrian activities in the future, during and post construction. The HVHTA will host a trail walk March 7, 2015 in lands that will be impacted by the highway construction. It seems a fait accompli that the highway will be built but there must be a way to ensure that modes other than motorized vehicles are accommodated in what today is designated Greenbelt. Accordingly, I have composed the following short summary, which is consistent with expressions of concern in other jurisdictions affected by GTA West Corridor.

MTO must consider pedestrian and cycling facilities as inherent parts of the GTA West Corridor system:

  • Connected and integrated cycle routes and paths: Newly constructed cycle trails/paths should parallel the proposed motorized vehicular routes. Multi-use Pedestrian / Cycle paths should be a minimum 3m wide allowing access between all overpasses crossing the future highway.
  • Address Municipal Cycling/Pedestrian Master Plans: Peel and York Regions, Brampton, Vaughan and King have Master Plans recommending connected and circumferential trails. These must be integrated into the plans for the Corridor and indeed, become an enhancement to encourage active transportation.
  • Permeability: In particular, frequent pedestrian / cycle overpasses must be part of a permeable system of crossings. Unlike recent MTO constructs, there should be generous and safe sidewalks for pedestrians. Crossings for cyclists should be on a separated lane for safety on all crossings of the future highway, as elevated overpasses can have greater wind velocities.
  • Trail Connections: Ensure the GTA West does not preclude other trail connections, particularly HVHTA’s Bolton to Kleinburg route through the Nashville Tract Conservation lands and Bolton Resource Management Tract Conservation lands.
  • Active transportation facilities: should be integrated in the overall design plan to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists: walking and cycling facilities at interchanges and ramp crossings; accessible crossings located to support direct pedestrian routes; adequate lighting and sight distances.
  • Landscaped Corridor: The poorly vegetated 407 must not be replicated. The GTA West Corridor removes considerable forest cover and hedgerows. These wildlife corridors will be lost. The wind protection and cooling effects they afford need to be compensated. In municipalities, developers are required to replace or compensate for removal of all trees. MTO, by construction of the highway, is a developer and should not be exempt.

I implore any readers of this blog to send a letter to the Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca, whose contact information is located: http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/members/members_detail.do?locale=en&ID=7205

SCOTTIES AND BRIER BUSINESS – ATTRACTING SPECTATORS

February 19th, 2015
Curling

Curling can attract spectators. One needs to identify the attraction parameters. Here are most recent spectator statistics as provided by Canadian Curling Association:

TIM HORTONS BRIER  

YEAR LOCATION POPULATION ATTENDANCE
2010 Halifax 390,096 107,242
2011 London 366,151 113,626
2012 Saskatoon 222,189 177,226
2013 Edmonton 812,201 190,113
2014 Kamloops 85,678 65,005

 

SCOTTIES TOURNAMENT OF HEARTS  

YEAR LOCATION POPULATION ATTENDANCE
2010 Sault Ste. Marie 75,141 49,436
2011 Charlottetown 35,000 48,473
2012 Red Deer 90,564 94,997
2013 Kingston 123,363 65,825
2014 Montreal 1,649,519 39,063

There is seemingly little or no correlation between host city population and attendance. There is little trend to the increasing or decreasing popularity of the events over time. So what can we surmise? First consider other sports:

  • Seven Game final NHL Hockey series are usually but not always sold out;
  • Baseball World Series – SRO;
  • Badminton championships have non-existent fans in North America, but watch out in Indonesia;
  • Soccer anytime fills stands in England and Spain;
  • Cricket creates riots in India and Pakistan;
  • Could Super Bowl attract the audience without half time show and commercials?

Why do they succeed in attracting spectators; and conversely, why not? Let’s look at it through the marketing lens:

Regionality – In the case of successful sport events, the sport is engrained in the national culture. Cricket and badminton have regional clusters of culture. Baseball similarly has a regional (American) appeal. Frequently, front row seats are available at Blue Jays games, but in the USA, the national pastime passion fills the seats in select cities. Hockey is Canada’s game, which is why you can walk-in to playoff series in Tampa and Carolina while lowly Toronto teams’ seats still command a hefty sum even on losing streaks. Soccer, it seems, has the greatest universality. Even Toronto can attract spectators to BMO field. Curling has yet to achieve the national cultural identity of hockey, but it can come. Curling has its strongest culture regionally in the Prairie provinces. Analysing the population to attendance ratios in the stats above, though, you might interpret that there is also a niche in PEI.

Entertainment Value– The event is not all on the ice. Most Super Bowl spectators are avid American football fans, but there is testament to attendees being there to be seen or to fulfil a bucket list. Few attendees (unlike curling spectators) are football players. TV viewers are divided between football and half-time show aficionados. The Brier/Scotties has to become a non-curlers’ “go-to” event, and/or contain other entertainment value to draw non-curlers to its event. Suggestions: apply music more liberally, at gaps between games or 5th end break and at the Patch; Increase the media, outside traditional curling channels; and create month-long build-up of mini-events to the BIG events. IMG_00000571

The Patch was the debacle of the Kamloops 2014 Brier. While the stands were less than half full, the locals secured seats at the Patch precluding curling fans from celebrating with their peers and heroes. The talk on the street was of anger that attendees in the seats were not guaranteed seats at the Patch. Although I gained access to the Patch, it was not the same as a year previous in Edmonton. In Edmonton, one could rub shoulders with the players and the casual acquaintances you met in the stands. In Kamloops, lineups outside had more people to whom I could relate than the crowd inside the Patch. If Kamloops organizers suffered at the gate, the CCA suffered more from Patch fall-out. The Patch at Briers, Olympic Trials or Scotties is curling’s most sacred emblem of camaraderie and fun. See Entertainment Value above.

Embracing Oddball Antics – Consider the news items that are generated from curling events. The SOCIABLES are a group of 10 Edmontonians who clothe and charm their way to notoriety at Briers. At the last four Briers, they became a presence and a valued asset to organizing committee’s, so much so that Pat Ryan invited them to Kamloops 2014 Brier just to add that entertainment value. Antics of individuals play a key role in curling event history. Flag runners such as John Francis in Harbin, China World Universiade and Jack Cox from Lindsay, Ontario at Briers become featured in local and national news (“Jack Cox, the elderly gentleman whose mad sprints with a massive flag have inspired Ontario curlers and thrilled crowds at 18 Briers, has been stopped by organizers, who are worried his dashes through the John Labatt Centre aisles are too dangerous”). Sometimes, as in Edmonton’s 2013 Brier, players throw caution to the wind and play to the audience. When it seemed that Kevin Martin could get in with a loss by Ontario’s Howard team, the crowd tried to throw him off his game with noise. Glenn embraced that heckling with a “bring-it-on” gesture, thus lightening and enlivening the crowd atmosphere.   Guy Hemmings in his Brier years became an entertainment specialist and how Jeff Stoughton brings a crowd to life with his 360 spinarama delivery (only when out of contention).

Voluntarism – Volunteers can be your best marketing tools. When asked what they are doing March 1 to 9, 2015 they will proudly announce that they get close to the scene of an exciting event. People attract more people. Organizing committees will include a marketing subcommittee, frequently led by experienced and creative marketers. With leadership, this group will generate enough noise to infuse interest outside the curling clubs of the vicinity.

Venue size should match the event expectations – While the Brier and Olympic Trials can command a venue the size of an NHL Arena in the Prairies, the Scotties appears more successful in a 5000 seat ice house in regional curling centres. Venues can also benefit from event results, as happened in Kingston where Team Homan attracted plenty from Ottawa for their 2013 playoff push.

Distance from the action. Like tennis, the size of the projectile is insignificant to the size of the venue. Think of curling as if it was a concert. The spectators in the nose bleed sections need some intimacy, too. At a concert, large screens project that intimacy. Curling could benefit from similar large screens, like the ones that entertain the Patch attendees. Adopt/adapt more technology to allow spectators a clear idea of what is happening within the four foot of the pin. An app perhaps?

Cross Market with other sports: What if flag bearers were in-line skating hockey players; or Olympians of rhythmic gymnastics or trampoline expressed their skills in the ends of the rinks between games or fifth end break. Toronto could market the Pan Am Games at this year’s Scotties, introducing cycling and fencing for their own cross-marketing. Remember, other sports have similar challenges of audience. Work with them. UNITE!

Finding the right urban centre – In http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2011/06/06/top-10-cities-with-the-most-sports-championships, the top ten US cities for championship hosting are primarily based on size of population. Yet, in curling, figures show that Montreal had one of the poorest attendances of any Scotties. All persons interviewed for this article consider Toronto a lost cause as a venue city. Why? There is too much competition for what is still a fledgling sport of curling. Curling can attract spectators, by recognizing:

  • that there are partnerships to embrace;
  • respect for the curling public;
  • other entertainment to be provided as part of major events; and,
  • curling has a National Culture, it just needs nurturing.

This article is similar to edited version in http://thecurlingnews.com/subscribe/

See other curling related blogs at: http://yorkurbanist.com/blog/

BRIER CHAMPIONSHIPS – ALTERNATIVE FORMAT

February 3rd, 2015
Curling, Uncategorized

As an avid fan of the Brier, it is sad to see the controversy surrounding the changes made by Canadian Curling AXsociation.  If you follow Eastern Canada journalism in 2015, you will find a concern that one of Adam Casey (PEI) or (former Brier Champion from NS) Mark Dacey will not be in the Brier this year because of relegation (assuming they make it through the province). Accordingly, here is a solution for which no charge will be billed to CCA:

BRIER TEAMS

BRIER ROUND ROBIN FORMAT

This simple change to format would give all teams a minimum of 7 games to prove their worth during the round robin.  As for the championship round, six teams would emerge with the top teams getting a bye to the semi-final. (Click on the image to enlarge and remove fuzziness)

  BRIER CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND

Not including tiebreakers, the winning team will play at least 9 games. No one will deny the depth of curling in Alberta to warrant two teams from that province. Yes, there is a potential national audience killer – if either only Ontario or Alberta  teams end up in the final. But it happens in baseball and football, so what?

Add to this, there is money in a Scotties or a Brier, provincial or national. See http://yorkurbanist.com/2015/01/29/2015-ontario-scotties-as-economic-generator/

2015 will be a telling year. It will tell CCA:

  • No province or territory wants relegation: we are better than that;
  • Audiences will be lost. Translation: fewer curlers in potential growth jurisdictions;
  • Grand Slams could take over as events for national attention.  The Brier is already losing its shine and its attendance. Grand Slam events are televised and have gained TV and live streaming audiences;
  • Calgary fans/attendees will be their usual full-house if there is an Albertan team in the final.  If not, then revenues will not meet plan, likening to the financial fiasco in Kamloops in 2014.
  • IMG_00000529

    Kamloops Brier 2014 – Note crowd in the stands

2015 Ontario Scotties As Economic Generator

January 29th, 2015
Curling

What do you think was the economic stimulus of the 2015 Ontario Scotties?  Description: Small venue, 10 teams of four women and a coach, capacity of 250 persons viewing… Dismiss not this valuable commodity.  Consider this:

The Total Economic Impact is comprised of Direct and Indirect expenditures. There are also Induced values.

IMG_00003040Direct Impacts result from expenditures by the organizing committee  and Ontario Curling Association. The expenditures include:

  • employment of staff
  • goods and services to run the event
  • provisions to volunteers and organizers

Indirect Impacts result from the expenditures by individual participants in the event such as volunteers (est. 75), players/coaches (50+), officials (15), families/friends of participants (100+), other visitors (150+) primarily spending on:

  • Hotels
  • Meals
  • Beverages
  • Transportation: fuel; maintenance; rental
  • other externalities

Induced Impacts results from the employees and local residents purchasing good and services during the event, external to normal purchasing. This is a difficult number to evaluate, but assumptions can be made that this event stimulates spending on things other than what happened at the Penetanguishene Curling Club.  The resulting profits from the event will further be expended to improve the Curling Club.  It is the Induced Impacts that warrant the Town’s encouragement to sports groups to be active. And what of the local, provincial and national media attention!!?? There were impacts of which no exact monetary value can be assigned.

To evaluate, consider the time over which planning and actual tournament operations occur.  The planning is one year for a 7-day event.

Travel Impact Industry General Weight
Accommodations 85%
Food Services 20%
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation 50%
Retail 5%
Ground Transportation 13%

Without getting into the evaluative details, 2015 Ontario Scotties generated over  $250,000 into the local economy.  This is not a minor economic generator for a small population centre.  The organizers are to be commended for their diligence and community spirit.  Take that to your councillors and area businesses.

If you desire further detail regarding the evaluation, you can contact Mark Inglis at yorkurbanist@gmail.com

 

SOMETHING SPECIAL HAPPENED IN PENETANG

January 25th, 2015
Uncategorized

Katrina Collins received the OCA sportsmanship award voted by all the players. A richly deserved honour garnered an unexpectedly emotional reaction before the final round robin game. Perhaps it had an impact on the game which followed, the only loss for Team Hastings. Youngest teams Romain and Kee made statements that there is a new generation biting at the heels of the established Teams Middaugh and Hastings.

Penetang CC could not have been more obliging in their hospitality. The players were treated like royalty. Stories abound about the drivers who stopped at nothing to help these athletes. They stayed past 3am on Saturday morning to escort home the weary party-goers. The athletes loved the one-man band, and the treats in the locker rooms (we outsiders should not know about). The locker rooms, although tight became a place of refuge from the crowds of fans one storey up.

OCA listens – An open meeting allowed the curling fraternity to have a say in how competitions can be enhanced. The women of the sport want to see a larger venue. Notwithstanding the warmth and generosity of Penetang CC, they could have sold more seats. Ticket issuing became one of its biggest challenges. There was agreement from those whom I interviewed that the event needs a comprehensive business plan to warrant an arena. Enough said… they listened.

Media censorship? – This column was never edited. The committee took a chance that I would fairly report what happened during the 2015 Ontario Scotties, and behind the scenes, it was something special.

Words at the Scotties

January 24th, 2015
Uncategorized

Blackshirts – Look for one of those identifiable volunteers wearing one when you need something. They deliver.

Blanket People – The stalwarts on the edge of Ice 1 who have the fashion footwear booties peeking out from the grey blankets (available for $15). They are unidentifiable having covered the uppermost parts with scarves and toques.

Linesmen – Arrive earlier than one hour prior to the draw, and there they stand outside in a line, in the parking lot, in the cold with toques and scarves…. Not to be confused with Blanket People, because Linesmen want to be inside, behind the glass.

Local Heroes – These are variously the Blackshirts or ones with the last name Howard. Carly reporting on Curling Geek, Glenn on Rogers and SportsNet or Scott just there supporting curling.

Equity – The Scotties teams favored by the media to win are losing unexpectedly to up-and-comers… a sign that there are future stars in the teams at 3-6 and 4-5. Had the last game of the evening ended differently, there was a possibility that only one team would be out of the playoffs – a potential nightmare scenario for the Scotties organizers, averted when Team Harrison won a thriller over defending Team Flaxey.

Change – The OCA organized a discussion venue for change to the Scotties (and other event) playdowns. This is a new direction for OCA which was, until 2014, an unchanging Big Brother to curlers now under the guidance of Dale Curtis. No decisions made, but at least dialogue with the players it affects. Surprise witness to the event was Rachel Homan… important enough to arrive unannounced from Ottawa.

 

By The Numbers

January 23rd, 2015
Uncategorized

20 ICYMI, Team Hastings was reported in Toronto Sun today that they have played together for over 20 years, having formed in 1994. “Our team,” (Julie Hastings) said, breaking into a grin, “has decided if we don’t get to the Scotties, we’ll make it to Senior Canadians.” Their chances are enhanced as they stand at the top of the leaderboard with a 7-0 record.

2 Age of Shannon Kee when Team Hastings formed. Kee is on a winning spree since vice Pam Feldkamp arrived… a tiebreaker is still a possibility.

3 Curlers on teams here who are Curling Club Managers or Assistants: Danielle Inglis; Janet Jesty-Murphy; Julie Hastings. Opportunities for practice abound.

1966 Sherry’s year of birth shows that there is nothing like experience to maintain second place at 6-1.

9-4 Score by Team Romain over Team Middaugh – youthful exuberance can sometimes counteract years of experience, as her team demonstrated in a steely win over veteran Sherry on Rogers. Two big wins over top teams keep them in contention.

3-4 Records – Whichever of Teams Romain, Kee or Grandy runs the table could force a tiebreaker or sneak into Saturday’s playoffs. Friday will prove to be an exciting day for teams down the list from the frontrunners.

1001 A seemingly endless supply of volunteers, almost half the town, are roaming the halls of PCC and streets of Penetang in their black jackets helping us find our way…. Thanks from a curling tourist.

Missing Persons – 2015 Ontario Scotties

January 22nd, 2015
Uncategorized

The buzz at Penetanguishene, no the province, no the nation, no the world….is about Glenn Howard’s pending absence in the Tim Horton’s Brier. But how can that have any substance in the Women’s Ontario Scotties? Well, Glenn’s here. And he commanded a presence at the Lunch yesterday. This is Glenn’s club and he would not miss it I’m sure. Always a joiner and member of the Sports Hall of Fame, Glenn impressed at the OCA lunch, bringing his calm demeanor to an attentive crowd awaiting the sage advice from the master of many provincial championships.
This Scotties may be a tale of who’s not here. The individuals, that is. Team Kee is missing a (gulp) ‘key’ team member and vice, Pam Feldkamp. She arrives Wednesday. Meanwhile, Team Balsdon loses Laura Hickey today, bringing in Super-Sub Hollie Nicol, former World Universiade Silver medal skip. Team Varnes lost Erin Macauley after the regions, but picked up another McAuley and never looked back. Sherry Middaugh’s team has a replacement at lead, Lori Eddy, while Leigh Armstrong waits (with pending baby) on the sideline for an emergency call… to play that is…

Musings of a Curling Tourist – 2015 Ontario Scotties

January 22nd, 2015
Uncategorized

Traffic Signals –Please tell me why I have to stop at every one of the five lights on the way back to the hotel from the Scotties? One of the lights seems to be a left turn advance into one of the many area Tim’s. The only explanation seems to be that Traffic Engineers have a mandate to control the 10-minute weekday rush period, only to adversely impact the weekend tourist… or is this a ploy to get me to stop for a donut?

Mike and Glenn – Penetanguishene Scotties landed two world renowns in the curling world to telecast Penetang Sherry’s game. Glenn once owned the provincial men’s Tankard and Mike is an Olympian and Sportsnet television host. Curiously (and based on behind-the-glass interviews), the television audience waits to see which of the superstars is going to be first to disparage the women’s strategy.

Sherry – The music world has its one named stars – Cher; Madonna; Drake… Well, Penetang is not to be outdone. The media has tracked her down and written and recorded every blond hair flip of the local curling wonder woman. Can she withstand the notoriety and raise her arms in victory on Sunday? Just for the record, there are 9 other skips: Shannon; Megan; Danielle; Allison; Clancy; Jaqueline; Julie; Caitlin; and, Rhonda.

Ontario Curling playdowns – the other events…

January 7th, 2015
Curling

Richard Hart has allayed all concerns that Team Howard has any bitter grapes by his post on http://www.curlingzone.com/showthread.php?s=0328a69a40dd7ed2625573281ca36dd8&forumid=&tp=0&sp=&postid=138098#post138098 .  He points to change in the management of Ontario Curling Association.  But Richard is a better player than most.  He has sons in bantams and juniors.  They also need change in playdown format.  Unequal zones lead to unequal results and sometimes lesser teams making provincials.  Illness or bereavement could prevent teams who have worked hard from becoming provincial champions.  Life lesson learned… but is it fair. We only need to look at the Olympic qualification process to find an answer.

A New Formula

OCT standings 2014Through four years of interstitial performances, the country can find the best qualified teams.  In Ontario, the period between September and December is a long enough period to establish the best we have in any of the events, seniors, juniors, masters, ladies and mixed. The period currently is two short weekends, many of which (zones) either have no entries or direct award. Ontario Curling Tour http://www.ontariocurlingtour.com/ and Ontario Junior Curling Tour http://ojct.ca/ each have systems in place to award points.  In a new system, the top two teams in those tours get direct entry.  OJCT events are hard to get into and therefore has not enough events, but watch it grow! OCT events usually fill, but those that do not, will find no difficulty in gaining teams.  Seniors also have competitions by which points may be gained – see TCA’s initiative https://www.torontocurling.com/circuit/ . TCA circuit But in my dream playdown structure, not only will the top two teams gain from points, but the teams with fewer points will have a leg up in the qualification for Regions.

Regional Playdowns

Having spent September through December playing in point-accumulating spiels, teams will enter the OCA competition with a reasonable fee for a two step process. The fees will be put toward hiring a designated and certified icemaker; consistent set of rocks; and a venue (arena or club facility) that evokes the credibility of the event it hosts. The points gained in spiels will seed the teams in the triple knock-out draw for 16-teams per 4 regions.  A team must consist of members of OCA, but no club specific designation need be made, except to receive a banner at the end of the Regions.  Once the 16-team field is filled in one region, then openings in other regions are available to latecomers or lower points earners. The Benefits:

  • Consistency: of ice; of play; of venue
  • Marketing Potential to build this sport that is starting to rival hockey on the airwaves;
  • Revenue producing for a club (such as Ingersoll and Penetanguishene for 2015 provincials) who can prepare, knowing how many teams are arriving;
  • Investment of Time by players, who know that the risk of illness will not put them out of competition – a healthy leap of qualified athletes in the sport of curling.
  • Pride in five distinct events (4 regions, 1 provincial per age/gender group)

Events Rationalized

Mixed Doubles: Is trending hard but still in the trial stages. The challenge is on the list, but it could follow the formula above.  ADD

MD-Fri-Howard-Bobbie-Makichuk-resized[1] Colts has had its day.  It has become the event that was intended for middle range competitors, but resulted in losers from the Tankard or Provincial Seniors who could somehow wipe away tears. ELIMINATE

Challenge Rounds: No longer needed! Hooray!   ELIMINATE

Gore Mutual Schoolboys/girls:  What is this if not the Ontario Federation of Secondary Schools Association playdowns.  ELIMINATE.

Imagine the costs saved by clubs that give up their ice time for sometimes non-existent Zones.  One less tier of events for OCA will allow that cost to be put into the more important Regions. Costs and family time saved by players who no longer enter a zone event that could have 16 teams or none. And perhaps, the officials could get a small stipend and costs.

In addition to provincial change, check out my suggested national changes http://yorkurbanist.com/2015/02/03/brier-championships-alternative-format/