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2005 03 30
Speculation One - Fable and Precedent
imageIn 1912, the privately owned Toronto Rail Company (TRC) purchased the Scarborough Amusement Park and the Toronto Athletic Field. Its resident lacrosse team, The Toronto’s, was included in the sale. Located in the eastern outskirts of Toronto, the park was rundown and poorly attended. Immediately after the purchase, the transit company extended its tracks an additional mile to the park entrance. The TRC also invested substantial funds to improve the park grounds and rides. The lacrosse team even received new team uniforms. The entire facility had been improved to equal, or perhaps better its rival: Sunnyside Park.

The TRC operated the park until it closed in the 1920s. The newly created Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) had been actively acquiring and consolidating the city’s various private streetcar lines. While the TTC was eager to purchase the TRC streetcar lines and cars, they were not interested in owning the entertainment complex and sports team. The TRC sold the park property to the city, which in short order flipped the land to a developer.

A transit company investing in a failing amusement park, athletic field and sports team is unheard of in North America today. As the TTC believed in the 1920s, and as it is commonly held these days, business has no business in any business other than its own business.

Revenue generated by the park and sports team was not the primary business interest of the TRC. Rather, the purchase was a cunning move to boost ridership on their underused eastern line, especially during evenings and holidays. As the bulk of the city’s population lived west of the park, park patrons and sports fans would commute to the new and improved attraction by streetcar - the Toronto Rail Company’s own line! The park was a well-calculated instrument in the company’s plans to successfully operate streetcar lines in the eastside of Toronto.

This is a story that involves the business of two discrete and important amenities of the city – mass transportation and entertainment. If they did not recognize common business interests, each operation would have likely failed. Constructing and operating a streetcar line from downtown Toronto into a lightly populated the lightly populated area was not viable. Simply, there were not enough riders. The amusement park and sports complex, situated away from the city’s core population, could not compete with parks much closer to the city. Considered together, however, the entertainment complex and a streetcar line proved to be good bedfellows.
(Source: City of Toronto Archives)
[email this story] Posted by Kevin Weiss on 03/30 at 09:44 AM

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