Backroom Briefing Q: Will Athletic Facilities Really Help Drive Population Growth?

Q: The Mayor has been quoted as saying that there could be more population growth if the community had more “athletic facilities.” I believe that there is just such a link. Could you expand on this thinking? —Bill O’Byrne

Goyette: Bill is a regular and welcome visitor to our office, and the Chair of Sport Kawartha—an impressive organization with more than 30 sports group/associate members that launched in April of 2010 with a mandate to value, improve, recognize and promote sport participation in the region. You can see the savvy in the man: He quotes the Mayor and then seeks confirmation as a method of promotion. I like it.

The Mayor was responding in February to a report on the City’s growth. He said that we might consider building new sports facilities and other infrastructure to attract young families to the City.

The question has to do with the reasons people move to a new location. These can be divided into two categories: One is a set of “push” factors at the point of origin that trigger movement, such as a lack of economic or educational opportunity; personal issues such as divorce, retirement or a preference for independence; and cultural discomfort such as religious or political conflict or persecution. Another is a set of “pull” factors at the point of destination that attract movement, such as jobs, education, the presence of family or community, climate, and a host of personal perceptions of benign conditions. These are all tied to the stages and cycles of life, as well as psychological outlook. For many, the grass can easily look greener on the other side.  

The research indicates that because of “distance decay,” people are more likely to move to places that are closer to them rather than further away. It also indicates that you are more likely to adopt a new hometown if you already know it. That means that people who move to Peterborough are statistically more likely to have come from somewhere nearby, and have been here before. The arrival here of people from the GTA and those who have prior cottage or rural experience would seem to bear this out.

Do athletic facilities rank highly as a drawing card for these newcomers? Not on their own, and not to the degree of other factors such as a new job. While they are probably more important in retention rather than attraction, they are undoubtedly part of the bundling of community benefits—the “infrastructure” that the Mayor referred to—that inform smart economic and tourism promotion. There is consensus that we have an entrenched deficit of sports facilities in the region, and the remedy for that, which is well underway, stands on its own merits as an issue of the quality of community life.  


David Goyette is the Executive Assistant to Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett. Email your burning questions for David about City Hall to

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