Plante administration offers to save bocce — if opposition plays ball

The borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville proposes to put up rent money for Club de bocce l’Acadie provided neighbouring boroughs do the same.

The administration of Mayor Valérie Plante made a surprise offer on Monday to save a bocce club in Ahuntsic that caters to 450 seniors.

Normand, a member of Plante’s ruling Projet Montréal party, said his borough would be willing to pay $60,000 of the roughly $210,000 annual rent on the bocce centre in his borough for the next five years if the neighbouring boroughs of St-Laurent and Montreal-North — both of which are run by opposition Ensemble Montréal – would put up equal amounts.

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The remaining $30,000 would come from the seniors, who offered months ago to raise that much toward the rent but were turned down by Ahuntsic-Cartierville.

“We would have, from 2023 to 2028, a commitment for five years in equal parts where the three boroughs could contribute,” Normand said. The bocce centre, on Acadie Blvd., is 100 metres from the border of St-Laurent, he added.

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Ahuntsic-Cartierville borough has paid the full rent on the privately owned bocce centre for the last 20 years. However, in August, borough mayor Émilie Thuillier informed the club her borough will stop paying for the centre as of Dec. 31, saying the rent is too expensive for a place catering to a single activity.

The borough instead offered to rent a room in a community centre and a room in a church basement so members of the club can engage in “golden-ager” activities like bingo and cards — but no bocce.

After club members protested the decision, the borough offered to extend the deadline to July 31. The borough told the group to try to come to a private arrangement with the centre’s owner or find private sponsors before then.

Ensemble Montréal didn’t offer an immediate yay or nay to Projet Montréal’s proposal, saying its members will discuss it after the council meeting and provide an answer on Tuesday.

“I think there’s a lot of confusion in this file,” Ensemble Montréal councillor Giovanni Rapanà said in council in response to Normand’s offer, which he dropped during question period. Ripanà accused the administration of confusing the matter.

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However, bocce club coordinator Cecilia Fazioli said she was ecstatic when the Montreal Gazette told her of the opening from Projet Montréal.

“Oh my God, that’s good news,” she said. “Since August, there was nothing, no negotiations whatsoever. Now, they opened it up, which to me is human. It tells me that there’s hope.”

Ensemble Montréal has a motion on the council meeting agenda calling for the city to provide a facility that will allow the year-round practice of bocce for at least the next five years if the borough doesn’t renew the lease on the centre.

“Given that the Italian community is very attached to bocce and we realize when we look at the numbers that the community … isn’t only in Ahuntsic-Cartierville, I think the offer on the table is excellent,” Plante said at council, speaking publicly about the bocce centre for the first time.

To Ensemble Montréal, Plante added: “The ball is in your court.”

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