When 7,600 athletes gather in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to compete in
the 2015 Pan American Games in July, they won’t be the only ones looking to stand out internationally. Determined to avoid building the type of
“white elephant” infrastructure often associated with major international
sporting events, leaders of the CA$1.4 billion, six-year initiative took creative
approaches to financing and facility designs.
The Pan Am Games, held every four years, are the world’s third-largest international multi-sport event, behind the Olympic Summer Games and the Asian
Games. In assessing project results from these events, one major lesson stood
out: The games’ value for the city should last beyond its 16 days of competition.
“We’ve seen it in Olympics from Athens, Greece to Sochi, Russia. Either
venues aren’t used for much longer after the games or, as with the London
Olympics, temporary infrastructure is built and then
taken out afterwards,” says Tobias Novogrodsky, director of strategic planning and implementation, 2015 Pan
American Games, City of Toronto.
That’s why, when the project began in 2009, the team
focused on the future. “The venues we built will have
a lasting legacy for the communities in which they’re
built,” says Jason Fellen, senior director of capital projects for Toronto 2015, the games’ organizing committee.
To make this happen, the team created a document
detailing both the Pan Am Games’ short-term facility
requirements and the community’s long-term needs.
Project managers then worked to incorporate both sets of
needs into the designs. For instance, the CA$205 million
aquatic center and field house in Scarborough, Ontario,
which was built for the competition, features two Olym-pic-sized pools. But a portion of one pool’s floor can be
raised to accommodate children learning to swim.
A Team Sport
Researching past international sports events also uncovered another useful lesson
learned: To avoid a financial boondoggle, the host city should identify the games’
potential risks and rewards before submitting its bid. This meant defining many
aspects of the project plan up front, says Mr. Novogrodsky.
“The minute you win the right to host the event, your leverage as the host
community begins to decline because you’re on the hook,” he says. “The repu-
The games’ capital
we built will
have a lasting
legacy for the
Toronto 2015, Toronto,