York Urbanist

Archive for the ‘Recreation’ Category

Unique Curling Programs

January 1st, 2015
Curling, Recreation

Has your club got a program that attracted an unexpectedly large number of participants, spectators or cash?

We would like to know about it. You may even get published!

Email: [email protected] ; or  Tweet to @yorkurbanist ; or FaceBook Mark Inglis

You have less than a month to share.


images[8]  Here are some page references:




April 20th, 2014
Curling, Recreation

In the coming weeks, this blog will create a hypothetical and entrepreneurial approach to rebuilding the sport of curling in the fictional community of Aasvogel, Ontario.  The story is based on a true life and death of a curling club. Curling is not a dying sport as reported elsewhere. The seeds of curling are able to be planted in any community.

Starting as a Dutch farm community, the village became affected by the changing Greater Toronto Area.  The farm-predominant community looked for activities for the winter. Scots farm immigrants had started a four-sheet curling club in 1951.The Scots imported curling and together one hundred formed a group who built a community centre mostly with volunteer labour and donated materials. Through the 1950’s and 1960’s, the membership grew to 250 but little else changed. Volunteers continued to run the club, making ice, catering events and running leagues for men.  Children of the founding members, baby boomers, provided the regeneration needed to sustain the club into the golden years of curling, the 1970’s. But some things changed.  The third generation was not large enough to provide natural growth for the club. Women wanted to join.  Opportunities to leave the community drew high schoolers to universities away from home. 

But alas, the community demographics changed while the curling membership stood still. Attrition at the normal rate of 15% was not countered by new members from a changing community.  Word-of-mouth had always worked in the past (1951 to 1980). But the club closed in 1988, unable to meet cost obligations. In 2014, the community of Aasvogel is a typical suburban community, population 20,000, whose cultural makeup continues to change.

So what happened?

During the later life of the club, new generations of immigrants and urban dwellers were buying into the community, because there was more land for less cost.  The town population was growing but the club membership was shrinking.

And the sport, in 1988, was isolated to a knowledgeable group of recreationists.

The volunteer board struggled with the shrinkage, not risking their friendships in the farm community by changing directions and fees. Why change what worked in the past?

Finally, the cost of replacing the 30 year-old compressor and plant parts would require $300,000. With fewer than 200 members, the board could not find the money through either donations nor fee increases and the club was forced to close.

What really went wrong?

Fear of Change: This was a proud club formed around a distinct demographic.  The members became comfortable, so much so that there was little long-term planning. The demographic change was coincident with population growth.  The club board failed to engage the new community members. 

Competition: The new community members were unfamiliar with the sport, the Town of Aasvogel built and subsidized an arena in which hockey dominated.  The arena was multi-functional, providing a facility available to the new community members.

Planning, Operations and Budget: The aging curling building had construction/maintenance problems, making it a hazardous facility, and not up to current regulations.  Without capital having been accumulated to cover depreciation of the asset, there was no fund to replace the asset.

Weakening Voluntarism:  Suburbanization caused families to spend more time commuting to workplaces.  Women joined the workforce in ever increasing numbers.  Adult volunteers became more scarce daytime and evenings.  The operations of the formerly volunteer run club struggled to continue without changing their program.

Demographic Change: The former curling demographic no longer could populate the club naturally. The new immigrant population was not educated about the sport.  The aging population does not bode well for the future of the curling club.

Does any of this hit home?  In the coming articles, we suggest that a new community curling facility can be built. We will break the steps down in each article.

Go to http://yorkurbanist.com/recreation/curling/curling-a-recreation-to-a-business/re-forming-the-core-group/ to see the next steps.



Vaughan Cycling Limited

June 18th, 2013
Healthy Communities, Recreation, Trails

Bike Month in Vaughan – it seems anomalous that my city needs a whole month to travel the two major trails that are pictured on the York Region Cycling Trails map. http://ww4.yorkmaps.ca/YorkMaps/CyclingMap/index.html  .

With the exception of the subdivision north of Major Mackenzie and west of Weston, there are no through routes that connect communities of the City without revving your motor!
In Vaughan, there is a chicken and egg scenario. The City Council will not build bike routes because there are not many riders. There are few riders because the bike routes are limited. Every Vaughan bike seminar and event was held in a location to which I had to drive. As adamant as Geoffrey Haines and Mike Tavares (City Staff) are to see routes constructed, the pace of that construction is slow. And it will be thus until it is indicated that there is a financial benefit. There is (a financial benefit):
These are only two of many studies. Look no further than Kleinburg to see the land values. With surroundings of greenways peppered with trails, Kleinburg housing commands more than 20% premium on similar properties in Woodbridge and Brampton. That translates into higher taxes for the city. Health benefits will rarely be quantifiable, but undeniably, residents with access to recreation maintain a healthier lifestyle. PriceWaterhouseCooper in their study for TransCanada Trail explain it succinctly:

“A dollar spent on trail construction, maintenance or by users of the trail, circulates and recirculates within the economy, multiplying the effects of the original expenditures on overall economic activity. This process is referred to as the economic multiplier effect. It operates at several levels:

The initial expenditures of the trail users and trail operators on goods and services, wages, materials and other trail-related expenditures are generally referred to as the direct costs of operation and their effects are referred to as the initial (direct) effects.

Subsequent purchases by suppliers of materials and services to sustain the direct expenditures are called the indirect effects.

Induced effects emerge when workers in the sectors stimulated by initial and indirect expenditures spend their additional incomes on consumer goods and services.”

Currently, east to west travel by non-motorized means is, at best, unsafe. Regional Councillor Deb Schulte says she rode Major Mackenzie to City Hall twice last year, but has no plans to do so this year. A plan, I am told, exists to construct a bikeway adjacent to a reconstructed Major Mackenzie between Weston and Islington. It still does not get one across the near-impenetrable Highway 400. The hospital planned for construction in the next 5 years should be an impetus for the construction for such a crossing.
Cycling can be a healthy business, call it Vaughan Cycling Limited, instead of limited Vaughan cycling.

Humber Valley East Trail and Hiking Rules

January 10th, 2013

York Region has many developed hiking trails for the urban hiker.  The best is still one that ranges from Kleinburg to Woodbridge following the Humber River East Branch. It appeals to all our senses.

The valley is so incised and wide as to allow the hiker to escape the harsh reality of urban light and noise.  The smells can either take you back to your childhood or send you into a sneezing fit.  The paved surface of the trail allows the not-so-avid recreationist the opportunity to experience the outdoors, but the adventurer is allowed to wander off trail to the edges of the valley where the sense of touch comes into play.  We trudge through snow or brush against brush.  Through four seasons, the experienced naturalist can even taste the outdoors. Yes, even winter has its hang-over seeds and fruits.  Get out and breathe the filtered air and take an active lifestyle that will relieve the stressors of the daily routine. See what previous hikes encouraged on the Humber River valley at http://yorkurbanist.com/trails/humber-valley-heritage-trail/

But respect the trails. Take stewardship of them for your next use and for the generation that follows.  Keep litter to your person, avoid taking pets that upset the natural inclinations of wildlife, and greet those other trail users in the most friendly manner as they share your ideals of a walk with nature.

Although urban trails are in a dissimilar context, I am repeating these Hiking Rules from http://www.canadianliving.com/health/fitness/how_to_start_hiking_4.php and Michael Haynes, with whom I have worked on a trails project.  Michael is well known in the hiking world having had his own CBC radio program and having authored a  hiking book.

“Rules to live by….
Safety first
Inconsiderate, ill-informed hikers are the scourge of the trails. For one thing, flicked cigarette butts or flying embers from campfires have started many forest fires. If you must build a fire, the Canada Safety Council recommends clearing an area with a three-metre diameter, making a circle of rocks around the fire and keeping a bucket of water, sand and a shovel nearby.

“I would always discourage people from lighting fires in the backcountry,” says Southam. “It can be damaging to what are often very fragile environments. That said, I think you should carry some waterproof matches in the event that you need to light a fire for safety purposes.”

If you absolutely must indulge in hot soup or tea on the trail, buy a lightweight stove. Some butane stoves are small enough to fit in your pocket.

Leave no footprints nor …
• Scoop when you poop. If fire is the No. 1 problem on trails, No. 2 could be, well, number two. With no outhouses on many long trails, poorly placed poops can be a disgusting problem. Leave No Trace Canada, a national nonprofit organization, advises hikers to dig a hole 15 to 20 centimetres deep and at least 60 metres from water and trails. Cover the hole when you are finished, and don’t leave your used toilet paper on the trail. Ideally you should seal it in a plastic bag and take it off the trail, but at the very least, bury it.
• Pack out what you pack in. Litter is another scourge of the hiking trail. Glass, cans and plastic are not just visually offensive, they can harm animals and people.

• Leave Fido at home.
While dogs are a fixture on many trails, some die-hard hikers believe dogs should stay home. Some trails actually have no-dog policies. “It’s from dog feces more than anything else that water sources get contaminated,” says Haynes. Haynes adds if dogs do need to accompany you, you should always keep them on a leash.

Additional rules
• Don’t hike alone.
• Check the weather forecast before you head out.
• Carry a map and compass with you, even if you have a GPS.
• If you don’t know the area, study a map before you hike.
• Obey all posted signs.
• Tell someone where you’re going and when you will be returning.
• Keep the noise down.
• Leave the alcohol at home.

Choosing your trail
Just as a new swimmer isn’t going to breaststroke across the English Channel, a novice hiker has to pace herself. Some longer trails, especially ones with steep hills, demand a fairly high level of fitness. Haynes recommends beginners should start at five kilometres or less (one to two hours) for their first few walks. Flat trails of up to 10 kilometres may be fine as well, but new hikers shouldn’t attempt longer routes. Trails beyond 15 kilometres – or 10 kilometres with a significant climb – are best left to the more experienced hikers. Most formal trails will tell you the distance, and some will rate the level of difficulty. And if you have a topographic map, you can quickly see if there are any steep hills.

Whether you want to take a sweet afternoon stroll or spend four nights sleeping in the wilderness, there’s a trail out there for you. For getting fit, clearing your head, escaping the concrete and getting to see some of Canada’s most stunning scenery, it’s hard to find anything better than taking a hike. “

Landscape meets Curling

December 13th, 2012
Horticulture, Recreation

Never expected to read about Glen Howard in my Turf & Recreation - Landscape Trades magazine. He wasn’t talking curling or beer….but Weedman, the team’s 2012 sponsor. The article, if you can read it, speaks to the challenges of acquiring sponsors for even the world’s top curling team. Weedman has stepped up and used it for their marketing purposes. Great job Glen, Wayne, Brent, Craig. Could you stop by Kleinburg after the worlds and work on my lawn?

Wait Until Dark – Trails

December 3rd, 2012
Recreation, Trails

Trails are 24 hour, year-round facilities, worthy of recreation investment dollars.

On November 30, five intrepids wandered the Humber Valley. It was not exceptional weather. There was some cloud cover. But with the darkness, there was a new awareness…of quiet in places and traffic din on the horizon….of urban orange glow to the south and darkness to the north. One’s senses are tested in different ways.

Would there be coyotes in packs? Could we see/hear nocturnal scavengers? The adventure is one of how our minds will react in the dark. We are all the more cautious in our steps through grasslands, but the destination at the height of land with a vista of lighted horizon and emerging stars is worth the trepidation of tripping hazards. It builds awareness of nature in what is becoming an urban oasis.

The Night Trail Trek is further enhanced by apps on one phone showing us the star formations. For our future treks, we imagined that night vision glasses would add adventure.

This one and a half hour recreation stint cost the government nothing, further utilized a capital investment from over 10 years ago and realized an economic benefit from the purchase of specialty equipment and post-trek libations in the local constabulary. Despite the latter economic benefit, the health component cannot be overlooked – a group exercising without the need for machines, generating no carbon emissions and breathing air filtered by the buffer of forests and leas.

At a cost of about $10,000-50,000 per kilometre of trail, remind me what other recreation facility provides such utility per investment dollar! And, challenge yourself to a night hike with your friends. You will be surprised at the different perspective you take on them and yourself.

See also: http://yorkurbanist.com/trails/trails-tourism/

Following Team Keon – The Dominion

November 20th, 2012
Recreation, Sports
We are deep into curling season and a national championship is upon us.

Team Ontario - Jordan Keon; Curtis Samoy; Trevor Talbott; Michael Keon

Team Keon became Team Ontario at the national Dominion Championships. They won their first game. Expect great things from this Richmond Hill Team.
See more curling at http://yorkurbanist.com/curling/ and http://www.curling.ca/thedominioncurls/about/
UPDATE: Team Ontario defeats Team Nova Scotia for second win.
UPDATE: Team Newfoundland defeats Team Ontario 5-1 after taking commanding 4-0 lead in second end.
UPDATE: Team Ontario defeats Team Quebec 8-4; three undefeated teams ahead – MB, AB, SK – nothing else to do than curl on the Prairies.
UPDATE: Team Ontario defeats Team PEI 9-1, More potatoes for dinner! Red dirt trails seen leaving Scarborough GC&C; Prairie lads can’t lose (do they not play each other?)
UPDATE: Team Saskatchewan prairie rolls over Team Ontario 7-4 proving that the westerners are more comfortable on flat surfaces.
UPDATE: Team Ontario wins tiebreaker against Newfoundland. 9-4; Islanders Rocked in the second with a five-ender. Blue-noses next
UPDATE: The road ended in Nova Scotia for the Team Ontario – 8-4, having given up a trey in the 8th.

US Open tennis – Court Dimensions

August 31st, 2012
Recreation, Sports

In honour of the US Open, and for your interest / trivia, here are the regulation court dimensions:

Overall Dimensions
The overall size of a tennis doubles court is 36 feet wide by 78 feet long. The
singles court is slightly narrower measuring 27 feet wide. Both singles and
doubles courts share the same length.

The Service Court
The service court fits inside the singles width of the court (27 feet wide) and
extends back from the net 21 feet. The service court is divided in half with a
center line marking the left and right service courts.

The Net
The net measures 3 feet 6 inches high at the ends and 3 feet high at the middle
tape. Typically the net standards are placed 3 feet outside the outer lines of
the doubles court, making the net length a total of 42 feet from pole to pole.

Distance from other Courts and Fencing
It is adviseable to have a distance of a 12 foot perimeter on each side of the
sidelines and 21 feet from each baseline to create enough playing area inside
fencing and adjacent tennis courts

Cycling on the increase?

August 8th, 2012
Healthy Communities, Recreation, Transportation issues, Uncategorized

Is this what it will take to increase cycling in GTA?

Evaluating Economics of Sports Stadia

July 19th, 2012
Recreation, Sports

Single use sports stadia make little economic sense. I blogged previously on Pittsburgh’s obsession http://yorkurbanist.com/2012/07/pittsburgh-day-2-contd/. A little digging might establish the information that would reveal how much each of the four distinct sports facilities loses.

I have made recommendations on sports facilities in the past, mostly hockey arenas and curling facilities.  Inevitably, the sport body must consider adjunct uses in its economic planning for the facilities. The single sport tends to have limitations to use times and variety. Most sports cannot fill all time slots, but with some creativity in programming, the building utilization can be increased to make an economically viable operation.
However, Markham Ontario is considering a major arena. Justification for Markham is that if we build it then a possible NHL franchise could land…. but what if it does not? There are many large entertainment venues in Ontario, let alone in Toronto area.
I think Dr. Rotthoff is right on! Think about this Markham.

PNC Park, Pittsburgh