Valley Park Middle School, student-athletes often take the TTC to away games unless enough parents volunteer as drivers. According to principal Nick Stefanoff, volunteers are hard to come by unless the games involve a flat bat.
“When we need drivers for any other kind of sport usually we don’t get any,” Stefanoff said. “But for cricket, we got like 25 people volunteering all of sudden.”
Soon though, parents and area residents won’t have to drive to watch or play cricket. Stefanoff said a plan is in the works to build a full-sized cricket field at the back of the school as part of a program of upgrades to the site.
“There’s a whole lot of aspects to this,” Stefanoff said. “There’s an educational component, there’s an eco component and then the sports field.”
Valley Park Middle School is located between the communities of Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park, which are home to many people from the Caribbean and South Asia, parts of the world where cricket is quite popular.
Community organizations representing both areas, the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office and Flemingdon Neighbourhood Services, have partnered with the school to facilitate the project.
“We’re helping to find funding for the project,” said John Carey, executive director of Flemingdon Neighbourhood Services. “It’s also bringing it to our local politicians and letting them know what’s going on.
“They’re all fully aware of the project and are supportive of the project.”
In addition to a cricket field the project will include areas to play soccer, basketball and baseball. There will also be environmental and educational aspects to the new schoolyard such as a rainwater collection system, an outdoor amphitheatre, a vegetable garden, a marsh and a butterfly meadow.
“It’s an area for families to come together and people to come together and socialize and have picnics,” Carey said. “I see down the road that kids can come and have hands-on learning experiences about the environment and about the importance of the environment.”
Currently, a small soccer field, some basketball nets and 11 portables occupy the schoolyard. Stefanoff said he recognized the yard could use an upgrade shortly after arriving at Valley Park from his old school, Bedford Park Middle School, where he headed another playground revitalization project.
Valley Park’s schoolyard will significantly increase in size after construction is completed. In order to make room for a full-sized cricket field, the school will have to lease part of the land in the neighbouring hydro-corridor.
At this point, Stefanoff said he is confident the project will break ground in the spring of 2012 and should be finished by the end of that year.
“What we’re really waiting for right now is getting final approvals for certain variances we have to do from the City of Toronto and I guess sort of finalizing the contract with Hydro One in terms of the land.”
The project is estimated to cost $1.7 million. So far, about $1.1 million has been raised from individuals and companies or earmarked for the project through grants.
Carey said there are many fundraising events being planned at the moment but none have been finalized. Still, the residents of Flemingdon and Thorncliffe have been helping out to make this plan a reality.
“There are numerous people that are doing a lot of work to make this happen,” Carey said. “So it’s not just Flemingdon Neighbourhood Services or Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office or the school, it’s a lot of people in the community really finding something that they’re interested in and want to do good for our community.”
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