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Infrastructure crumbling? An international sports event might be just the answer LINDA GYULAI, The Gazette Published: 23 hours ago Big international events snag big bucks. Toronto and its neighbouring cities are hoping that formula will equal $1 billion to build or upgrade local sports and recreation facilities if they win a joint bid to host the 2015 Pan American Games. "It's the single most important objective," former Ontario premier David Peterson, who was named by Premier Dalton McGuinty to head the region's bid, said in an interview with The Gazette. "There seems to be a massive deficit of infrastructure here." The region will know in a year whether it has the event, Peterson said. The province hasn't hosted a significant international sports event since the 1930s. Cities all around Toronto say they need everything from swimming pools to gyms. Hamilton said this month it will have to close more than half its recreation centres, pools and arenas within a decade if it doesn't deal with a $20-million backlog of repairs and upgrades. And a 2005 survey of 2,560 municipal arenas, pools and community centres by Parks and Recreation Ontario, an association, found their average was 32. The facilities require $5 billion in repairs and upgrades, the study concluded. The bulk of federal sport infrastructure funding in recent years has gone to western Canada, which has hosted the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Pan American Games, said Michelle Gendron, spokesperson for Sports-Québec, a provincial association of sport federations representing 90 activities. Vancouver will host the 2010 winter Olympics. Montreal's last major international hurrah, the '76 Olympics, sparked the city's last sport and recreation building boom. But politicians have done a 100-metre dash from the idea of hosting another major event after the games left a $1-billion deficit. Mayoral candidate Benoit Labonté has proposed Montreal bid for the 2020 world fair as a catalyst for the city's renewal. After all, Montreal got a métro system for Expo 67. It's the right idea, but the wrong event to generate cash for Montreal's worn-out sports and recreation facilities, Gendron said. "It takes a sporting event to generate investment in sport facilities." Even a smaller international sporting event brings a windfall, she said. The 2005 World Aquatics Championships, for instance, led to the upgrade of the swimming pools on Île Ste. Hélène.