Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Canadian Aerospace Heritage or Hockey Rink?

The future of a Canadian heritage building, once the worldwide HQ and primary manufacturing facility for de Havilland Aircraft of Canada during a golden age of Canadian aviation and now home to museum exhibits chronicling that era, will likely be decided during two raucous public meetings over the next few days.

According to the September 18th, 2011 CTV Toronto News report "Canadian Air and Space Museum handed eviction notice," the present Downsview, Ontario residence for countless pieces of Canadian aeronautical and space focused memorabilia might need to find a new home.

Both the Canadian Air & Space Museum (CASM) and its landlord Parc Downsview Park (the Canadian crown corporation established to develop and maintain the land the museum is located on) have scheduled public meetings over the next few days where the issue will likely be discussed.

The CASM meeting is scheduled for Saturday morning September 24th at the museum according to the main page on the CASM website and the Downsview Park annual public meeting is scheduled for Monday September 26th, according to this link on the Downsview Park website.

David Soknacki.
According to David Soknacki, the Chairman of the Board at Downsview Park, the on-site facilities presently housing the CASM are "falling apart" and "badly in need of maintenance."

He says the only real option is to evict the seven existing tenants (including the CASM) and accept an offer from an undisclosed outside firm to turn the facility into a "four rink ice hockey facility" which would include a $20 million CDN upgrade plus funds for maintenance and building renovations.

In a phone interview earlier today, Soknacki said "Neither the museum or any of the other tenants is in a position to offer up $20Mln CDN for the required renovation so we had to look at outside offers."

But a listing of museum sponsors from the CASM website includes the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Air Canada, the J. Amand Bombardier Foundation and most of the largest of the current crop of Canadian aerospace companies including Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada, MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) and others who could certainly be expected to contribute substantial funds to any museum renovation effort.

Rob Godwin.
According to Robert Godwin, the publisher/editor for Apogee Books and the space curator at the CASM, the museum board of directors wasn't even made aware of the situation until after the eviction notice had been served.

In a phone interview, Godwin stated that the previous museum board of directors renegotiated their rental agreement with Downsview Park approximately two years ago, when the CASM went from paying "almost no money whatsoever" to paying $15,000 per month. The existing board then resigned and the new board ended up $100,000 in debt (over six months behind) before developing a plan to bring the rent current.

The new board finally managed to send out their first payment on the outstanding principle (22K covering the 15K monthly rent and 7K extra on the outstanding 100K) last week, but the check was refused by Downsview Park and the museum then received it's eviction notice.

The next day, six other tenants in the same building at Downsview Park also received their notices.

According to Godwin, tenants have six months to move and nothing has been dumped into the parking lot (at least so far) but the locks have been changed and access to the building is presently restricted.

According to Soknacki, the locks were changed as a legal requirement to ensure possession of the building after the six month eviction period concludes and tenants will have full access to the building to remove possessions.

The CASM presently hosts a number of meetings each month for local organizations including the Canadian Space Society (CSS), a national non-profit organization looking to stimulate the Canadian space industry and promote the involvement of Canadians in the development of space.

Jerry Zucker (1949 - 2008).
Oddly enough, an unnamed source has indicated that the corporation intending to build the hockey facility is The Intertec Group of South Carolina, a diversified aerospace and chemical conglomerate headed by the Jerry Zucker family, which is one of the largest privately held companies in the United States.

According to the source, Intertec owns Buckingham Sports Properties, which is said to have fronted the current bid. Buckingham presently operates the Future Stars Arena Elite Ice Hockey training facilities.

It's public knowledge that Intertec once also owned and operated the Canadian based Hudsons Bay Company (HBC). After Zuckers death in 2008, his wife Anita became the first female governor of HBC in its 338 year history. According to the July 16th, 2008 press release on the CNW Group website titled "The InterTech Group announces sale of Hudson's Bay Company to NRDC" the firm sold its HBC shares in 2008.

It's also worth noting that one of those artifacts displayed at the museum is a full sized model of the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow fighter plane.

With a length of 77 ft 9 in (23.71 m), a wingspan of 50 ft (15.24 m) and a height of 20 ft 6 in (6.25 m), there is likely no other place in the country large enough to house the model and transportation costs will likely be onerous to move it anywhere should the museum close.

According to wikipedia:
Not long after the 1958 start of its flight test program, the development of the Arrow (including its Orenda Iroquois jet engines) was abruptly and controversially halted before the project review had taken place, sparking a long and bitter political debate. The controversy engendered by the cancellation and subsequent destruction of the aircraft in production, remains a topic for debate among historians, political observers and industry pundits.

"This action effectively put Avro out of business and its highly skilled engineering and production personnel scattered... The incident was a traumatic one... and to this day, many mourn the loss of the Arrow.
The video below gives a little bit of the background and history of the Arrow. 

The last thing the CASM might need to do before closing down the museum facility might just be be to hold a press conference so that the public can see the CF-105 model cut up, in pretty much the same way as the actual Arrow was destroyed, all those many years ago and by an earlier government.

Godwin thinks it would make great TV.


  1. When I visited viewed the CG-105 model at CASI, I cried. Its heart breaking to see such an accomplishment, only possible with amazing team work, skill and dedictation, destroyed.

  2. i dont know what to say, alot of hearts will be broken on that day when it officially gets torn down, and the guy who wants to have the ice rinks there and create a team called the toronto legends, has no respect for what was once was housed in that very building, where are they going to put all the old aircraft??

    i dont want this to happen....what if we occupy CASM??? stope them from doing it!!


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