A downtown site that has sat vacant for more than 20 years will become home to a new youth-focused sports facility.

MLSE Foundation executive director Michael Bartlett made the announcement Saturday at 261 Jarvis Street, just north of Dundas Street East – the site of the new 42,000 square foot facility.

The new centre will serve Toronto Community Housing residents and will feature sports and educational programming for children and youth, Bartlett said. He said the facility will help kids maintain physical and mental health and prepare them for school and work.

“As the charitable foundation of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, we have an opportunity to access the resources of MLSE and to work with some of the most iconic sports brands in the world, all with the intention of improving kids’ lives through the spirit and the power of sports,” Bartlett said.

The news conference was attended by a number of dignitaries, including Mayor John Tory, Premier Kathleen Wynne, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Raptors president Masai Ujiri, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum and Interim Toronto Community Housing CEO Greg Spearn.

Both Wynne and Tory lauded the project as a positive example of a public-private partnership.

Tory said he hopes the facility will help make young people ‘feel like they are part of the community’ and by extension, help create safer neighbourhoods.

Tanenbaum said the project is a way for MLSE to make a difference in the community in a way that’s a natural fit for the organization.

“Sports and physical fitness are an incredibly important part of our lives and helping Toronto’s youth enjoy the benefits of playing sports is a major priority for MLSE and MLSE Foundation,” Tanenbaum said.

The site will be renovated and owned by MLSE and leased to Toronto Community Housing for a 20-year period. When complete, it will feature a multipurpose gymnasium, classrooms, cafeteria, and a kitchen.

Silver said the new centre is an example of “what sports is about” and said it will play a role in the NBA All-Star Game when the event is hosted by Toronto next year.

The facility will fully open in 2017, according to a video presented at the news conference.

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