Thursday, September 22, 2011
Air and Space Museum to become ice rink
The Canadian Air and Space Museum is being kicked out of its Downsview Park home to make way for a four-pad ice rink.
Volunteers at the historic property were thrown into a state of panic on Tuesday when the museum was served an eviction notice and workers arrived to change the locks.
“I’m distraught. I’m ready to cry,” museum CEO Robert Cohen told the Star. “I can’t leave this place. I’m camping here. They’re gonna have to throw me out.”
The struggling museum owes property owner Downsview Park $100,000 in past due rent. Still, the eviction shocked volunteers, who say they were on the verge of turning things around after a bout of bad luck that included a failed fundraising campaign and mass management changes.
PHOTOS: Museum evicted
On Tuesday afternoon, they emptied the building of its artifacts — including a full-scale replica of the legendary Avro Arrow fighter jet — and prepared to vacate the property they have occupied for 12 years.
Staff members were under the impression they had to be out by the end of the day, but Downsview told the Star that tenants will have up to six months to vacate.
“I can’t comment on other people’s interpretations (of the notice),” said Downsview Park board chair David Soknacki. “We would welcome them in to have a discussion about their future.”
Soknacki said the change comes in part because the museum wasn’t drawing enough people to Downsview Park, the 672-acre site of a former military base that has been dubbed “Canada’s first national urban park.”
The new arena, which will be used for skating and hockey, is scheduled to open in September 2013.
The privately operated rink will run some city ice programs and offer 240 hours per year of community programs, which could prove to be good news for skaters and hockey players benched by Toronto’s ice shortage.
That doesn’t satisfy the volunteers. For them, the museum is a labour of love. They transformed it from a bare hanger into a warehouse filled with model airplanes ranging from the size of a fist to full-scale replicas.
The site itself is a part of history, built in 1929 as home to de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd. — one of Canada’s most successful aircraft manufacturers.
Volunteers say there’s a hockey rink right down the street. “You could actually chip a golf ball at it,” said Campbell Young, 74, who has been volunteering at the museum for more than a decade.
“We were hoping things would turn around,” Young said. “If we can raise enough hell ... hopefully someone will skip in and at least give us a reprieve.”
A PHOTO GALLERY OF THE CANADIAN AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM