Toronto should invest in the CNE, leveraging existing assets to keep the exhibitions grounds open year round, increase amenities, and modernize remaining heritage buildings.
Pros: The existing infrastructure is already in place, the buildings can be better utilized, and all-season activities can increase tax revenues for the city, provide retail and recreational space to community groups and non-profit organizations as well as larger exhibitions.
Cons: High cost of retrofitting existing buildings, there are already venues available for exhibitions and events, the CNE is too far out of the way to be used year-round.
The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) grounds are a major cultural asset that are underutilized and in need of renovation. Several buildings have already been renovated or expanded, including BMO Field and the Direct Energy Centre, in general the grounds remain disconnected from the city and poorly served by public transit. The grounds should be better integrated into existing waterfront amenities, including the revitalization of Ontario Place and Queens Quay.
Several strategies to improve the CNE have been proposed in recent years; including the construction of a Casino and amusement park. City council is sending mixed messages about the future of the grounds. While the casino and amusement park were turned down, council approved the expansion of BMO Field to accommodate CFL games and increase capacity and banned all electronic music events on the grounds within a few weeks of one another. There is desire to make better use of these grounds as historical and cultural asset, but the city remains conflicted over how best to achieve this goal.
Image credit: Andos_Pics, Flickr creative commons