The Friends of the Angela James Arena (FAJA) celebrated the completion of the arena’s renovations with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on 14 October 2018. The ceremony lasted approximately one hour and was attended by about thirty-five people. Aside from residents of Flemingdon Park, MGCI Principal Ms. Goldenberg, Mayor John Tory, Councillor Jon Burnside, MPP Michael Coteau, TDSB Trustee Gerri Gershon, and members of the Toronto City Police 54 Division attended to show their support.

A young hockey player cuts the ribbon. Image: Russell Ijaya

The arena, a community hub for Flemingdon Park residents, was nominated for Kraft Hockeyville’s annual contest to win one hundred thousand dollars for renovations in 2016. Though it did not win the sum, the arena procured a spot in the top ten and was awarded twenty-five thousand dollars. By combining the contest reward with money earned from neighbourhood improvement funding and two months of fundraising, the arena was able to undergo various repairs and revitalizations; one of the most prominent improvements was additional heating and insulation in the locker room and the benches outside the rink. The rest of the money was spent on general repairs, such as fixing the leaky roof.

Mayor John Tory kicked off the event by speaking about the Flemingdon Park community and the importance of the arena to local youth, thanking various individuals who helped orchestrate the arena’s renovations. These individuals included Aishah Sheri, Adil Patel, Mussarat Ejaz, and Stephanie Joseph who also shared their thoughts on the importance of the arena. Councillor Jon Burnside and MPP Michael Coteau expressed their congratulations as well; MPP Coteau  shared a personal anecdote about growing up in Flemingdon Park and learning to skate “in this very arena.” The speeches concluded with the ceremonial cutting of a ribbon by one of the arena’s young hockey players.

Aishah Sheri, one of the organizers of the renovations, gives a speech. Image: Russell Ijaya

After the ceremony, the attendees mingled and shared their thoughts on the event. When asked about her opinion on the arena’s renovations, Gerri Gershon, a TDSB Trustee who is retiring after thirty-three years, said, “This is a very large community that does not have enough recreational space. There are a lot of children who live in this community and many are from different countries that didn’t have skating as a sport, so this is a wonderful opportunity to be involved and to become Canadians, eh!”

Nathan Stern of the Toronto City Police 54 Division, who has spent much time in the Flemingdon Park neighbourhood, shared some additional benefits of the arena and its renovations. “Hockey is a very expensive sport so getting to do it as a community and getting the community to rally together to cover the expenses is great. The renovations will allow more youth to come learn a sport and engage with the community and like today, parents will come out to support their kids and watch them play, which is very important.”