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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport - Toronto Varsity Blues

Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport 100 Devonshire Place Toronto, ON M5S 2C9

Year Opened: 2014

Capacity: 2,000

The Gold(ring) Standard

Along with McGill and Queen’s, the University of Toronto formed what would become USports in 1906. The Varsity Blues would take the court for their first basketball season in 1907 and the rest is, as they say, history. Or is it? A team that has not been blessed with a tremendous amount of success as compared to other Toronto programs, the basketball team is entering new territory in the OUA (Ontario conference of USports) through technology and their facility. Toronto has surprisingly never brought home a National Championship in basketball, but has brought home the Wilson Cup as Conference Champions in 1995.

For the balance of their existence, the Varsity Blues called the Athletic Centre on Harbord Street home. Slightly removed from their other athletic facilities in Varsity Centre, the University of Toronto was prepared to bring Varsity Blues basketball back home in a sparkling new athletic facility. With a very significant donation from the Goldring Family, the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport was born, just across the street from Varsity Centre. Former Varsity Blues basketball player Ron Kimel added a donation of his own and part of the Goldring Centre was the Kimel Family Field House. In 2014, the Kimel Family Field House at Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport opened to the Varsity Blues basketball program and the over 88,000 students enrolled at UofT. A unique design and using technology like no other program in the province, the Varsity Blues now have the Gold(ring) standard when it comes to basketball facilities.

Food & Beverage 2

Concession options at the Goldring Centre are not massive. Pizza, hot dogs, popcorn, candy, chips, chocolate bars and protein bars are the totality of the food menu. Soda, water, coffee, tea and hot chocolate are the options for beverages. Coca-Cola products are available for soda options. What the Goldring Center lacks in variety, is made up for with value. There is nothing over $5 on the menu and most items fall below the $3 mark. Soda is sold for a cool $1.50. The concession stand is below the main atrium, outside Kimel Field House and also sells some Varsity Blues swag.

Atmosphere 4

Directly across the street from Varsity Centre, the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport is sleek and clean. A huge recreation facility that also houses University of Toronto fitness facilities, the exterior has huge windows and lots of natural light pours into the upper atrium. The fitness centre can be seen from outside and the shades of greys and blacks are carried throughout the building.

Tickets are scanned in the atrium and fans are directed to the Kimel Family Field House, which is two levels below. Just outside of the Field House, the stark colours and creative use of light continue and the sleek, modern look is not lost. A table with attendant is ready to greet fans with programs and other promotional materials. The attendant actually gets up and greets, welcoming fans, which is a very pleasant surprise compared to many other experiences, both professional and amateur.

Entering the Kimel Family Field House, fans are struck with the most unique of basketball venues. Toronto keeps with the sleek and modern look, and technology that is ahead of the curve in the OUA is present. Black is the predominant colour around the court. The walls of the Field House and the entirety of the upper levels are all dark black. The court runs from south to north with the east grandstand the spot to be for the perfect picture. The seating area consists of twelve sections of folding bleachers that surround the court. Most games see a few sections that remain folded. The centre court sections feature comfortable, folding, plastic stadium seats with the remaking seats being moulded plastic buckets. An upper level is available for media, production and special groups.

Current championship banners from various sports hang over the balconies but none are for sports that actually play in the Field House. Considering the vast history of Toronto basketball, a nod to Wilson Cups that the Varsity Blues have captured over the years would be a welcome addition. At the north end of the court is a modern video board which Toronto uses very well in a modern fashion. The south end of the court also features a ribbon board on the fascia of the balcony.

The game day production for the Varsity Blues is fairly simple. The player entrances and introductions are done with the house lights off and aided by spotlights. The Blues’ mascot, True Blue brings a giant UofT flag to centre court for the opening video and introductions. The Toronto Pom team performs during breaks and aids in the pregame festivities. Music played is a mix of modern rock and hip-hop, which is to be expected.

Neighbourhood 5

The neighbourhood surrounding the Goldring Centre is excellent. The Goldring Centre is on the University of Toronto’s St. George Campus in the University neighbourhood of downtown Toronto. It sits in the shadows of Toronto’s iconic CN Tower, which can be seen across the stadium from Bloor Street. There are plenty of spots along Bloor for pre and post game food and libations. The Duke of York, Bedford Academy, Hemingway’s, the Museum Tavern and Proof are all options within a two minute walk. Possibly the best option would be Gabby’s, a laid back spot with great food. Favorites like Tim Hortons and Starbucks are also right there among other chains.

Among the other university buildings, the Royal Conservatory of Music is right next door to Varsity Centre and the Royal Ontario Museum is on the same block. Queen’s Park and the Ontario Legislature are not far off and heading toward the lake will bring patrons through Toronto’s theatre district. The iconic Eaton Centre is not far off for shoppers and Harbourfront has a plethora of other entertainment options. Not to be missed would be the Hockey Hall of Fame.

For fans looking for other sporting options, there are a multitude. The Toronto Varsity Blues field a full range of athletic teams and football is found right in Varsity Centre at Varsity Stadium. Varsity Centre is also the home to Varsity Arena, home of Toronto Varsity Blues hockey. A twenty minute walk will bring fans to the Mattamy Athletic Centre which is the home of the Ryerson Rams and the former Maple Leaf Gardens. Rams basketball is played inside at Coca-Cola Court while hockey is played above at Mattamy Home Ice. Toronto’s third university, York University is located at the north end of Toronto. York Stadium is home for York Lions football, the Tait McKenzie Centre is home for basketball and Canlan Ice Sports York is the home for hockey. There are, of course, a multitude of professional sports options in Toronto also. The Scotiabank Arena is home for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Rock. The Rogers Centre is home to the Toronto Blue Jays. Over at Exhibition Place, BMO Field is shared by the Toronto Argonauts and Toronto FC, while across the parking lot, the Coca-Cola Coliseum is home for the Toronto Marlies.

There are also a ton of accommodation options for fans wishing to stay in Toronto. Some of the closest to Varsity Centre include the InterContinental Toronto Yorkville and The Windsor Arms Hotel.

Fans 3

It is difficult to assess the fan situation at OUA basketball experiences. In most cases, attendance figures are not reported so comparing average attendances for different teams is nearly impossible. Also, OUA basketball fans are measured in hundreds and not thousands. That being said, the game that was reviewed probably had a couple hundred fans in attendance, which is not out of line for this league. The fans in attendance were engaged and supportive of the Varsity Blues. A small group of student supporters led the fans with their drum.

Access 4

The St. George Campus of the University of Toronto is located in the university neighbourhood of downtown Toronto. It is north of the Gardiner Expressway, west of the Don Valley Parkway and quite significantly south of Highway 401. Getting to this part of Toronto by car can be a little tricky. Traffic is always an issue. There are a number of surface lots that surround the university and parking can be found at a reasonable rate. Probably the best way to get to this part of Toronto would be the subway. There are two subway stops within a block of Goldring Centre and they are connected to both main subway lines. Buses and streetcars are also not too far away from Goldring Centre. Fans interested in public transit can check out the Toronto Transit Commission website for maps, schedules and fares.

The ticketing window is on Devonshire Place, on the outside of Goldring Centre. Lineups are not an issue, which is a good thing because lining up outside in the Toronto cold can be cumbersome. Getting around the Goldring Centre is pretty easy, however fans will have to traverse a few staircases. Washrooms are on the same level as Kimel Family Field House and heading to the washroom is not much of a hindrance.

Return on Investment 4

USports basketball remains a fantastic value for the entertainment dollar. The Toronto Varsity Blues are no exception. Adult tickets for a Varsity game run $8. Staff, seniors, youth and students are a mere $5. Children under 9 get the big discount and are free. Although getting to Goldring Centre can be a little pricey compared to other USports basketball experiences, Toronto basketball does provide a solid return for the investment.

Extras 3

An extra mark for the Varsity Blues’ rivalries with the Ryerson Rams and York Lions. The rivalry with Ryerson is getting stronger with Ryerson seeing improvements on the court to coincide with their own new athletic facility.

An extra mark for the deep history of the University of Toronto and their place as a founding member of USports.

An extra mark for the University of Toronto pushing the envelope and creating a basketball venue that rivals any in the country.

Final Thoughts

There is absolutely no comparison between the Goldring Centre and the old Athletic Centre. Toronto now has one of the top basketball facilities in the country. It will be interesting going forward to see if Toronto can capitalize on their facility and translate that into better recruiting classes and stronger teams on the court. However, it is undeniable that the Goldring Centre and Kimel Family Field House have given Toronto a new gold standard.

Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9 and on Instagram.

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