Published April 18, 2023

Ontario Science Centre to move to Ontario Place in Toronto

image - CP

By Allison Jones and Liam Casey in Toronto

The Ontario Science Centre will be moving to a revamped Ontario Place on Toronto's waterfront

Premier Doug Ford unveiled plans Tuesday for the next stage of a redeveloped Ontario Place that includes the new location for the science centre, an expanded amphitheatre, a public beach, bars, restaurants, a new marina and a massive spa. 

"It will be a state of the art, world class, science centre," Ford said at a news conference at Ontario Place. 

The new science centre will likely be smaller than the current one in east Toronto, but Ford said it will be a more modern facility and make use of the cinesphere and the pods that were part of the original Ontario Place design.

"This is going to be spectacular," he said.

Construction on the new science centre will begin in 2025 with its opening scheduled for 2028, the science centre said.

"We are looking forward to working with our staff, visitors and communities over the coming years to imagine what the new Ontario Science Centre will become," the science centre said in a statement. 

"This is a wonderful opportunity to set us on an exciting path where we will continue to inspire curiosity, innovation and discovery for generations to come."

The current science centre will remain open in the interim. It will eventually be demolished, hopefully for housing, Ford said.

"All of us grew up going to the science centre at one time or another – it's tired," Ford said. 

The redevelopment of the Ontario Place site has been in the works for years. 

The attraction, which opened in 1971, was closed to the public in 2012 after years of financial losses.

Since then, the province has built a new waterfront park and trail at the site.

European company Therme Group is set to build a massive spa and waterpark, and Live Nation is set to build an outdoor concert venue at Ontario Place. 

The plans also include a new pier, beach and a large fountain for kids to play in. 

Ford didn't say how much it would cost the province to redevelop Ontario Place, but said companies like Therme and Live Nation would foot the costs of their buildings. Infrastructure Minister Kinga Surma said a business case showed it will be more cost effective to build the science centre at Ontario Place rather than rebuild it at its current location.

But the plans have prompted criticism from the opposition and advocates who do not want to see a spa at a public park. 

Bhutila Karpoche, the NDP's critic for GTA issues, said while the government may have held consultations on the future of Ontario Place, it has not consulted local residents on moving the science centre there.

"The Ontario Science Centre is not just a tourist attraction, it is also a community hub for many, many communities in the area, Flemingdon Park, Thorncliffe Park, and to take away the science center with absolutely no community consultation is disrespectful," she said.

"The government is claiming that there is going to be housing on this already. There are a lot of questions around that. First of all, just in terms of feasibility. The place is surrounded by ravines. How are you going to build on such lands?"

The designs for Ontario Place have also become an issue in the Toronto mayoral byelection with some candidates saying they're opposed to facilities such as a spa on public land.

Ford said opposition to the redevelopment plan "doesn't cut it."

"The last time I checked on the sign out there, it doesn't say Toronto Place. It says Ontario Place," he said. 

"This is prime, prime real estate," Ford said. "We need more venues here in Toronto to attract more tourists."

The amphitheatre at Ontario Place will increase its capacity to 20,000 fans and hold concerts year round.

The redevelopment plans also contain a large underground parking lot for more than 2,000 cars plus a surface parking lot with space for 600 cars.

Ontario Tourism Minister Neil Lumsden said the government expects the new Ontario Place to attract upwards of six million visitors each year, with one million expected for the science centre. 

The province is building a subway from Ontario Place to the current site of the science centre. 

Ford said he hopes to see "affordable and regular homes" built on the science centre's land. He said the new Ontario Place will create 5,000 jobs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 18, 2023

Banner image - The Canadian Press

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