Young people in the city’s northwest now have a space where they can access sports, arts and other life skills program thanks to a community partnership.
For KICKS (For Kids Involving Cops & Community for Knowledge and Sport) partnered with Toronto Azzurri Soccer Clubto establish the Toronto Azzurri Youth Sport Village – a combination of a playing field and club house -- at the Keele St. Reservoir.
In 1999, Sergeant Stephen Hicks, of 31 Division, established For KICKS that provides a platform for young people in the Division to participate in physical fitness activities and build self-esteem.
“This new facility is not about Toronto Police or the Azzurri making a complete difference,” said an emotional Hicks at the unveiling ceremony on April 29. “It’s about us two working with another 20 to 30 community partners to make a massive difference in this amazing community that gets painted with the same brush year after year as a troubled, violent and useless neighbourhood. It’s far from the truth.”
Several 31 Division members, including unit commander Superintendent Tony Riviere, Constables Phil Sinclair, Gary Jones, Lindsay Riddell, John Saul, Euan McDermott, Joe Park and Jeffrey Stager, attended the ceremony.
“Not many of us live in this community, but we care about this neighbourhood,” added Hicks. “It’s like our own backyard and our family and that’s how I treat it.”
Riviere, who played soccer for the Service’s Metro Blues team for several years, heaped praise on his officers for collaborating with the Azzurri to establish the village.
“I am so proud of Sergeant Hicks and the other officers who helped to make this happen,” he said. “This is another option for our young people and it demonstrates what can happen when community partners work together.”
In 2006, the City of Toronto and the Toronto Azzurri Soccer Club entered into a 20-year agreement for the construction and operation of an on-site field house and soccer field at the Keele St. Reservoir.
“This is about giving kids a chance to go on the soccer pitch and to get out of the alleyways, gangs and trouble,” said Deputy Chief Peter Sloly, who represented the now defunct Toronto Blizzard and Canada at the Under-20 World Cup in the Soviet Union in 1985 before becoming a police officer.
“Most importantly it gives them a chance to get on the right path to success in life. They will learn soccer and life skills, they will be taught discipline and they will be given an opportunity to understand the rules of the game and life and what it means to be a team member, to be goal oriented and to want to achieve things for themselves, their team, their community, their city and their country. This is about giving our kids a future.”
The new field house features change rooms, washrooms and public meeting rooms.
Councillor Anthony Perruzza played a key role in the negotiating process between the city and the club.
“When I came on board with this about eight years ago, I thought it was a good fit for the City of Toronto and this neighbourhood,” he said. “The kids will get the chance to participate in sport and life activities.”
The sport village is located at 4995 Keele St.near Steeles Ave. W.