The first ever Roller Derby World Cup is just around the corner.With flights booked and accomodation sorted,the thoughts of many fans travelling to Toronto will be of the city itself.To find out a little more about Toronto,i talked to Bryan Mcwilliam aka Flyin' Bryan Killman.
Bryan is the manager of Chicks Ahoy! of Toronto Roller Derby and a freelance journalist from Toronto. He has covered roller derby for Gear Up For Sports and his writing portfolio can be viewed at Bryan McWilliam.com
What sort of building is the bunker?
The Bunker is Toronto Roller Derby’s new home in the Downsview Park region of Toronto. The area of Downsview Park was once used for army training. The government turned the majority of the facilities into businesses. The Bunker is located at the back of a building that houses a weekend flea market and has been used for film production in the past. It does not have separate halls; it is one large open space. If you visit layer9.ca and watch the latest bouts featuring ToRD’s CN Power against Montreal’s Sexpos and Hamilton’s Eh! Team you can catch a glimpse of what the venue looks like.
What is the crowd capacity?
I do not know the official crowd capacity, but if I had to guess I would say between 1200-1500 people at the maximum. Keep in mind that if you are watching recent videos of roller derby at The Bunker only half of the space was being used. The entire building will be used for World Cup which means double the capacity and seating
What is the seating and disabled access like?
There are grand stands for the fans in attendance and there is also suicide seating trackside where fans can sit at their own risk. I would recommend bringing a cushion or pad for your bum if you are going to sit in the suicide seating. The grand stands and suicide seating cover the majority of the track, but do not cover the areas where team benches, media and emergency medical staff are located. The Bunker has a disabled ramp for easy access to the venue and there is space between the grandstands and the track for disabled patrons to get a good view of the action. A disabled friend of my wife’s actually attend her first bout in early October and praised how easy it was to get into the building and how great of a view she was offered.
Is there a bar? and if so is it open all day?
Normally during bouts there is an area where alcohol can be purchased with identification inside the arena. I am not sure what the drinking hours will be during the World Cup, but I would assume no alcohol before 11 a.m. due to Ontario Alcohol serving laws and that the bar will close upon the conclusion of the last bout of the day.
Is there a cafe or restaurant within the Bunker?
Downsview Park sets up a snack bar in the arena whenever there is a bout. They provide food and beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. There is also some businesses near by that provide food and drink such as The Hangar restaurant, Grand Prix Kartways and California Sandwiches.
Is photography allowed from the crowd?
Yes, photography is allowed in the building. Fans bring cameras all the time.
How easy is it to get to the Bunker using public transport?
It really depends on where you are coming from in the city. Downsview Park is located in the North West end of Toronto near Downsview subway station. There is a regular bus route, the 101 Downsview Park bus that on weekends drops you off right in front of the venue and there are also other bus routes that take you within close proximity of the venue. The best idea for anyone travelling via our transit system is to visit the Toronto Transit Commission website for details on how to get to the venue. I recommend using the Trip Planner option, it’s a great feature that allows you to punch in where you are going to, where you are leaving from and the times you need to leave and arrive by. It’s very handy!
Is the subway system the best and cheapest way to get around Toronto?
Yes, Toronto has a subway system (TTC) in place and depending on where you are staying in the city you will probably have to use it to get around. Each fare, each way is $3CAN or you can buy week or day passes which will save you money and allow you to travel more frequently. The TTC starts running very early and closes very late so the schedule of the transit will work accordingly with the World Cup’s derby schedule.
Taxi cabs are also an option and are very accommodating in the city. Toronto has numerous cab companies such as Beck Taxi, Diamond Taxi, Crown Taxi and more. Beck is very reliable and can usually pick you up from any location in the city in five – ten minutes. You can find their company information via Google. Cabs are fairly expensive in our city and The Bunker is far if you are coming from the centre of the city, which means your cab ride will be expensive, but cabs can be affordable if you fill the ride (four per cab) and split the fare.
What will the weather be like in Toronto come December?
Toronto’s weather has been very odd over the past few years. We never know when to expect the snow. Sometimes it happens in December; sometimes it doesn’t happen until February. I recommend you prepare for the wet, slush and snow. It will be cold, no matter what. Freezing or below zero Celsius is normal for our winter. If you wear a decent winter coat, a winter hat and make sure you are dressed appropriately you will be fine.
However, when the wind kicks in it can get extremely cold. The wind chill added onto our cold temps can really push the temperature low, so please make sure you are prepared for the cold. Bring a winter coat!
Our snow has not been unmanageable for quite a long time. Most of the travel will be direct to the venue on transit so there shouldn’t be too many times where you are trucking through snow, if we have any by that time of year. Toronto does a fairly decent job of cleaning up the snow so it shouldn’t be too bad. The only thing to worry about is slush. This is a pain to deal with and makes driving conditions a bit unsafe at times, so be careful of that.
Any restaurants around the venue worthy of a mention? Are you expected to tip and is it a set amount?
The Hangar bar and restaurant and Grand Prix Kartways are the only places reasonably close that sell alcohol and provide food that isn’t just plain old pizza and potato chips, which is what kind of food you can expect at The Bunker. You can check www.toronto.ca for info on Toronto area restaurants. It is the official website for our city and has everything you need to know about food, shows, tourist attractions, etc. Canadian service industry does expect tips. The norm is 15%, but I base tips on service. If they give good service I increase from 15%, if they give bad service I decrease from 15%, it all really depends on the customer and how they feel like tipping.
What can visitors expect to pay for a meal?
Toronto has an abundance of restaurants that offer a wide scale of food types that range in price. You can find some solid places to get a good sit down meal for less than $20. It varies based on how you eat, what you want to eat and where you are in the city. There are a lot of helpful websites that you can go to for this information such as www.toronto.ca or www.dine.to or you can just ask some of the locals. There are so many people with so many recommendations you’ll always be able to find a decent meal for a solid price if you’re willing to ask. Stay away from the franchise restaurants; they normally have sub par food with high prices.
...and how about prices for beers and shots?
It depends really. If you go to a pub and drink Canadian domestic beer out of a bottle such as Molson Canadian, Budweiser, Coors Light you are looking at around $4CAN. A pint may run you about $5-6 depending on the establishment. If you drink beer that is considered foreign to Canada you will pay more. A shot usually goes for around $4 as well, but can increase based on the liquor you are drinking. You may come across lower and higher prices depending on the establishment. Night clubs and higher end restaurants will charge you much more. You can usually find a few spots that regularly offer lower priced alcohol. Ask some local Toronto folks and surely they will give you tips on where to go for cheap drinks.
Is there anything else Toronto specific that visiting fans need to know, like local holidays or clashing events?
Toronto always has a lot going on, but there are no holidays occurring during World Cup. There will always be clashing events going on in Toronto since we are a busy city, but nothing so dramatic that it will affect the World Cup very much.
Are there any do's and don'ts in Toronto?
Toronto is like any big city. We have friendly people and we have unfriendly people. Overall I’d say this city is friendly and so are most Torontonians. Normally if you stop to ask someone for advice, directions, etc they will go out of their way to help you. You may run into some people that are not so friendly, but that normally occurs when they are in a rush or a bad mood.
We are also very multi-cultural so you’ll run into all kinds of different cultures and languages. We have certain neighbourhoods where you will find more of a certain language, i.e. China Town, Little Italy, Little Portugal, etc. As for do’s I recommend you discover the city, but know where you are going. Ask locals for fun neighbourhoods to visit. Try to get the best out of your time here, when you’re not watching derby of course. As far as don’ts, I wouldn’t recommend trying to discover the city without a little know how. Ask locals at the derby events if they know some fun places to explore. Toronto is generally very cool. It’s a big city and there is a lot to discover so I recommend you do it! Canadians and Torontonians love to drink and have fun. We like to party and always have events going on in our city to entertain us. You’ll never be bored here.
I know it’s somewhat unthinkable, but what are the must see sights and experiences that Toronto has to offer that visiting fans might indulge in other than the world cup?
If you can afford it, try to attend a Toronto Maple Leafs game. You can visit the CN Tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame, visit our theatre district, hit up one of our many nightclubs, and attend a rock show in one of our many venues. Again, check out www.toronto.com for all kinds of information, but the World Cup will probably take up a huge amount of your time.