Atos Markham Pan Am/Parapan Centre welcomes thousands for sneak peek

I had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of this great celebration.

By Brea Bartholet

It was certainly a sight to be seen.

Hundreds of people anxiously waited in line Sunday afternoon for a first-hand look at the newly built Atos Markham Pan Am/Parapan Centre on Main Street South in Unionville.

The brand-new, $78.5-million multi-purpose aquatics centre and field house will host badminton, water polo and table tennis during the upcoming 2015 Pan Am Games.

As more than 2,000 guests were ushered into the venue, they were treated to live entertainment, face painting and tours of the grand facility.

In addition to all of the excitement, families were invited to take part in Markham’s largest pool party, held in the building’s 50-metre Olympic-sized swimming pool, after an official grand opening ceremony held in the triple gymnasium.

“Today, you are part of Markham’s history,” Mayor Frank Scarpitti said as he addressed a crowd of onlookers. “This is a great example of how all three levels of government can achieve great things.”

Other special guests to the ceremony included Pan Am/Parapan Games CEO Saad Rafi, Minister of State Bal Gosal, the minister responsible for the Pan Am/Parapan Games Michael Coteau, Markham-Unionville MPP Michael Chan and Canadian water polo player Christine Robinson.

The opening of the centre not only signifies the upcoming Pan Am Games, but also the new beginning for athletes who would normally have to travel for training.

“We are not only doing this for the athletes of today like Christine, but we are doing this for our athletes of the future,” said Coteau.

Watching from the sidelines as each dignitary spoke was Brittany Tam, a 17-year-old Markham student who hopes to qualify for the games next spring.

Tam, who is a straight A student at Bill Crothers Secondary School, is eyeing a spot to represent her country in badminton.

Playing since she was six years old, she now attends classes each week from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., finishing her day off with two to three hours of training.

“It’s already tough to qualify, so I’d be very grateful just to accomplish that goal and be part of the Pan Am Games,” she said.

Tam still has multiple national and international competitions to take part in before she finds out if she’s made the cut.

She, like many other athletes, are looking forward to the chance of competing in front of a home crowd, representing not only Markham, but Canada as well.

Shortly after a ribbon was cut, indicating that the centre was officially open for business, Scarpitti asked guests to make their way to the poolside so the real fun could begin.

“Five, four, three, two, one,” said Scarpitti, signaling young swimmers who were eagerly waiting at the water’s edge to jump in.

“We want to welcome the community and the world to our city,” he said.

Though this afternoon marked the grand opening of the centre, an international badminton competition was recently held at the facility, where Markham resident Michelle Li tasted victory on her home court.

The Pan Am/Parapan Games are funded by the government of Canada, the Province of Ontario and lead partner CIBC, as well as various other sponsors.

General ticket sales for the Pan Am Games will begin Dec. 8 on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Tickets for the Parapan Games will go on sale in spring of 2015.

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