What’s next? Fairview arena decision creates opportunity, challenges for Calgary community stakeholders

Community has 'pretty open mind' as to what comes next for now vacant space of former Fairview Arena

The Fairview Arena - home to the Southern Alberta Women's Hockey Association and the Indefinite Arts Centre. The city said last week the arena portion won't be rebuilt. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

You can’t always tell the exact moment there’s a shift in the evolution of one of Calgary’s mid-century communities.

When the Fairview arena roof toppled on Feb. 20, 2018, it caught the community off guard, along with the primary tenants who occupied the attached building – the Indefinite Arts Centre and the Southern Alberta Women’s Hockey Association (SAWHA).

Earlier this month, the city decided it wouldn’t be rebuilding the arena. They said their current practice is to build multi-sheet arenas and the parcel of land where the Fairview Arena once stood wouldn’t accommodate that type of facility.

That left the community without an arena and gathering space, the SAWHA with 500 ice times to make up around the city and Indefinite Arts wondering – what’s going to happen to the space behind us (especially given the master plan they have for their site)?

This is that point in time where the evolution for all community stakeholders begins.

THE SOUTHERN ALBERTA WOMEN’S HOCKEY LEAGUE

SAWHA has been pondering their next steps for the past year. They’d been a part the ongoing conversations with the city concerning the arena and understand the economic decision, so they had a feeling this day would come.  As a result, it’s been a challenging year.

“We’ve been scrambling all year to secure ice,” said SAWHA vice president, Alyshia Pretulac, also noting they took a hit this year losing the Jack Setters arena ice times in Lynnview as well.

It came at a time where they’re still growing as a league, adding two teams, making them the largest women’s hockey league in North America. As a result, it’s slim pickings with late night ice times.

“Yeah there’s a little bit of grumblings because we definitely are picking up later ice times than before,” she said.

“Not everyone wants to go to a 10 p.m. ice time on a Sunday when you’ve got to work in the morning. Unfortunately, that’s been what’s left over sometimes and what we’ve had to pick up.”

Pretulac did say they’d incorporate league bylaws forbidding times later than 10 p.m. on weeknights and 10:30 p.m. on the weekends as most players have work and families to contend with.

They know their new home won’t be in the same location. What they don’t know is where they’ll land. And without a home where they can rely on a certain number of ice times, Pretulac said they’ve got to be very careful about growth.

They aren’t sure if they’ll occupy space in an existing arena, or a future one, should something be built in the foreseeable future.

“It potentially could have an effect on growth going forward,” she said.  

“We’re going to remain optimistic and try our best to meet the needs of our current members base as well as grow the game for women’s hockey in Calgary and surrounding area.”

INDEFINITE ARTS CENTRE

Indefinite Arts has a master plan already in place for their portion of the area. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Four months before the Fairview Arena roof caved, Indefinite’s executive director JS Ryu said they’d already secured $250,000 to begin the design process on a new building for that location.

When the roof collapsed, they didn’t have any clear answers from the city on what was going to happen to the arena, so they went forth with extensive community consultation on the development of a master plan for their facility – all with the assumption something would be built behind them.

“Now that the arena is no longer a feasible option for the land behind us, certainly I think that it opens up a broader conversation on how our vision fits in with the broader site,” said Ryu.

While the new, $20 million facility would continue to focus on providing arts training and exhibition opportunities for Calgarians with developmental, physical and acquired disabilities, it would still be a location highly accessible to the public, Ryu said.

Still, he said they’ve made assumptions that their vision would be confined to their leased land, so it doesn’t encompass planning for the now vacant lot behind them. It doesn’t mean it can’t, he said, but the two plans just wouldn’t be contingent on one another.

Indefinite Arts Master Plan by on Scribd

“Whatever happens to the arena should be complementary to the creative hub that we’re going to build on that site,” Ryu said.

“I can’t imagine how long it’s going to take for people to decide what they want behind us. We already know what we want as an organization and what we believe is a very strong case for the community.”

Ryu said once funding is in place, they could break ground within six to 10 months, depending on the development permitting process. If that happens, he thinks it would push the redevelopment of the arena site along at a much faster pace.

“If we moved forward, I think it would actually spark a much quicker process on the part of the city and the community to ensure the land behind our facility will be developed in a complementary way to the facility we envision,” he said.

FAIRVIEW COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION

Regan Klyn, first VP and acting president of the Fairview Community Association said there’s no doubt an important piece of their community history is gone.

“There’s a lot of Fairview residents who grew up in the neighbourhood and are now raising families in the neighbourhood and they have a lot of connections to that building,” she said.

“It had a deep connection with the neighbourhood.”

They’ve kept tabs on some of the disappointment over the city’s decision not to rebuild, some had hoped the city would rebuild “Something with ice there,” Klyn said, but they now know that’s not going to happen.

“At the same time, I think this is a really great opportunity for us, as a community, to come together with the city and parks and really figure out what’s next,” she said.

Klyn said there’s already been a number of ideas that have been floating around for the land’s next life. Everything from recreation, to commercial – even to high density housing – or a combination of all of them.

“For the most part, especially now that the arena has been taken off the table, that everyone has a pretty open mind about investigating different ideas,” she said.

Fairview Community Association VP and acting president, Regan Klyn, said there’s already been a lot of talk on what might happen to this site now that an arena will no longer be there. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

While the arena’s going to be missed, they’re still building community through a variety of other initiatives. They’ve developed an outdoor rink, they’ve erected a handful of new parks and launched new community events.

“We’ve been successful at still building that community and that engagement even though we have had that central traditional space,” Klyn said.

Now, there’s a buzz in the community in dreaming about what’s next.

“As a community there’s some impatience to get started on that, but I know that taking the time will lead to something that’s great,” Klyn said.

“I don’t think that we’ll have trouble attracting people to have a say.”

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About Darren Krause 247 Articles
Journalist, husband, father, golfer, writer, painter, video gamer, gardener, amateur botanist, dreamer, realist... never in that order.

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