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Ontario Science Centre suddenly closed permanently due to serious structural issues

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The province is reimbursing all members of the Ontario Science Centre and summer camp participants

TORONTO, June 21, 2024 — The Government of Ontario has just announced that the Ontario Science will close as at end of day today (June 21, 2024), due to safety concerns related to the structure of the roof. The province says “a new report from professional engineers has found serious structural issues with the Ontario Science Centre building that could materialize as early as this winter, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Science Centre have recommended and the Board of Trustees of the Ontario Science Centre has agreed to close the facility at 770 Don Mills Road effective end-of-day today. Previously scheduled private events will be permitted to occur over the weekend.

All staff have been told they must vacate the premises by October 31, 2024. It looks like the plan is to temporarily relocate the science centre programs nearby until it has a new permanent home at Ontario Place, which is slated to open in 2028. Meanwhile, the province continues to make progress on its plan to build a new state-of-the-art building for the Ontario Science Centre at Ontario Place, which they say will feature approximately 15 per cent more permanent exhibit space than the current site.

“The actions taken today will protect the health and safety of visitors and staff at the Ontario Science Centre while supporting its eventual reopening in a new, state-of-the-art facility,” said Kinga Surma, Minister of Infrastructure. “In the meantime, we are making every effort to avoid disruption to the public and help the Ontario Science Centre continue delivering on its mandate through an interim facility, as well as alternative programming options.”

Engineering report commissioned by province

Infrastructure Ontario commissioned this engineering report by Rimkus Consulting Group due to reports of roof failure in other jurisdictions that used specific roof panels also found at the Ontario Science Centre facility. The report found that the building, which is more than 50 years old, is at risk of potential roof panel failure due to snow load as early as this winter. The latest engineering assessment shows that the roof structure in parts of the facility was built using construction materials and systems that are now outdated and that certain roof panels are deteriorating.

While the building remains safe over the summer with an enhanced process for rainwater monitoring and roof facility management, these months will be required for staff to safely vacate the building.

“Infrastructure Ontario and its predecessor agency have worked for decades to assess, manage and mitigate the challenges presented by aging infrastructure. As in all the public buildings we manage, the safety of everyone visiting or working in those buildings is our top priority,” said Michael Lindsay, CEO of Infrastructure Ontario. “Through planned diligence with our facility managers and engineers, we discovered material issues, in addition to existing issues, at the Ontario Science Centre that would require significant investment and a vacant facility to remediate.”

Reimbursements from the province

Recognizing the impact of this sudden closure, the province is reimbursing all members of the Ontario Science Centre and summer camp participants within 30 days. The province has also identified a nearby school that will house similar programming as an alternative location for summer camps free of charge for previously registered campers.

Toronto mayor Olivia Chow says closing the Ontario Science Centre is a “painful loss for the city”

In a statement released Friday, Mayor Olivia Chow expressed deep disappointment, calling the closure “a painful loss for the city across generations new and old.”

“I’ve seen the wonder and joy on the faces of my grandchildren as I’ve taken them through the exhibits at the Ontario Science Centre. It’s a special place that sparks imagination and curiosity, and creates a love of science and learning that lasts a lifetime,” said Mayor Chow.

The Toronto mayor also pointed a finger at the provincial governments for letting the science centre fall into “such disrepair over the years.”

She went on to say that at next week’s ity Council meeting there will be a motion to “explore the province’s responsibilities related to the Ontario Science Centre.”

Temporary relocation while new Ontario Science Centre is built at Ontario Place

To ensure families, students and youth can continue to access and benefit from science-based programming and education, Infrastructure Ontario will be releasing a Request for Proposals to help identify a temporary location for the Ontario Science Centre, while work continues to build a new permanent home for the Science Centre at Ontario Place with an opening slated for as early as 2028. The Ontario Science Centre is also exploring opportunities for alternative programming, such as mobile, pop-up experiences and virtual.

“For more than five decades, the Ontario Science Centre has been a beloved landmark and an integral part of our community and our province. Our building itself has been part of the experience, and a cherished space for generations of visitors, sparking wonder and curiosity about science and the world around us, every day.” said Paul Kortenaar, CEO of Ontario Science Centre. “The memories created within these walls are truly special – and are the foundation on which we will build our future.”


Quick Facts about the Ontario Science Centre relocation

  • The Ontario Science Centre relocation business case demonstrated that the existing Ontario Science Centre building will reach the end of its useful design life in three to five years from when the business case was released. It also outlined that relocating the Ontario Science Centre to Ontario Place will save taxpayers over $257 million over a 50-year period, when compared to remaining at the current location.
  • While work to identify a temporary location is underway, the province continues to make progress on its plan to build a new state-of-the-art building for the Ontario Science Centre at Ontario Place, which will feature approximately 15 per cent more permanent exhibit space than the current site.
  • Earlier this year, Infrastructure Ontario released a Request for Qualifications to begin the procurement process to identify a team that will design, build, finance and maintain the new state-of-the-art home for the Ontario Science Centre at Ontario Place.
  • The new facility will include fun and interactive spaces for families, students and visitors, while also preserving heritage features and expanding into the modernized Cinesphere and Pod complex. Bringing the Ontario Science Centre’s exciting science-based educational programming to the heart of Ontario Place will spark curiosity and innovation for a new generation of visitors.

by Terry Lankstead with extensive notes from Government of Ontario news release

Other articles from totimes.ca – otttimes.ca – mtltimes.ca

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