In spite of an extensive letter writing campaign, the students at Thorold Secondary School will not be getting a new turf field.
Negotiations between the City of Thorold and the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) have broken down and now the DSBN is looking to install a turf field at another school.
“Unfortunately, the City of Thorold has informed the DSBN that they are not willing to sell the land at McMillan Park for the site of a new synthetic turf field and track at Thorold Secondary School,” writes the DSBN, in a statement to ThoroldToday. “Our next steps will be to retain a consultant to investigate alternative DSBN school sites that are suitable for a synthetic turf field and track.”
As ThoroldToday reported last year, the DSBN put forward a proposal to buy McMillan Park to install a full-size synthetic turf football field.
The proposal saw support as well as criticism from the local community. McMillan Park has long been the home of the Thorold Anchors so the city floated the idea of building a new baseball diamond in Rolling Meadows if the sale of the park were to go through.
Councillor Anthony Longo and Councillor Ken Sentance were appointed city council liaisons to broker the deal on behalf of the city and on Aug. 30, City Hall provided an update on the negotiations, in which they indicated that a deal was not looking likely.
"Though the purchase and sale of McMillan Park will not be moving forward at this time, the City looks forward to continued discussion of this proposal in the future,” the city said at the time.
Since then, discussions have come to a grinding halt and the DSBN has started exploring the installation of a turf field at another school.
While the negotiating partners are staying mum on the reason for the sale not moving forward, ThoroldToday has learned that the key sticking point is the so-called "right of first refusal."
City Hall wanted a guarantee from the DSBN that if the field were ever put up for sale, the city would get the first opportunity to buy it back.
However, the DSBN is not legally able to fulfill this request. School boards are required by the Education Act to first offer surplus property for purchase or lease to a list of public sector bodies.
While local municipalities are on that list, they are ranked below other public groups such as colleges and universities, public health boards, as well as the provincial government.
Due to this legal obligation, the DSBN was not able to fulfill the city's request.
When reached for comment, Thorold City Hall released the following statement from Mayor Terry Ugulini: "Thorold City Council is open to continued discussions with the DSBN regarding McMillan Park, with the objective of reaching a mutually beneficial outcome, that would ultimately benefit our Community."
Even though the DSBN is moving on, it is keeping the door open for future negotiations.
“Should the City of Thorold reconsider their decision in the future, we would be prepared to build a synthetic track and turf field at Thorold Secondary School which will benefit students and the community,” the DSBN said.
With neither party willing to budge, the dream of a brand new turf field appears to be quashed.