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University of Calgary can’t contribute to city’s multisport fieldhouse

Calgary’s desire for a multi-sport fieldhouse was kicked in the shins Tuesday with the University of Calgary saying it doesn’t meet their needs and they have no cash for it.

But, the game goes on nonetheless.  

Calgary’s Foothills Athletic Park Redevelopment Advisory Committee (FAPRAC) met Tuesday for an update on the proposed $250 million fieldhouse project and redevelopment of the sport and recreation area.

Members heard that eight project management proposals were received, all from Calgary-based firms. From that group they selected B&A Planning Group as the project manager.

Included in the materials was a letter from the University of Calgary’s President and vice-chancellor, Ed McCauley.

In it, McCauley said the redevelopment plan for the fieldhouse doesn’t meet the university’s needs.

“We fully appreciate that meeting the university’s needs (additional seating, varsity administration space, locker-rooms, training room and clinic space) would place additional capital pressures on the project,” McCauley’s letter read.

He also said that the City’s commitment to community access as a priority conflict with the needs of their sports programming.

“Given the current and anticipated budgetary constraints faced by the university, UCalgary does not have the capacity to pay market rent, nor the ability to make the capital contribution to the project that would be required to accommodate our various program needs,” the letter read.

Coun. Chahal said partnership didn’t materialize

Coun. George Chahal, who chairs the FAPRAC, said UCalgary’s decision is no surprise given their current financial situation.

“The cuts they received recently from the provincial government have had a significant impact on them and their ability to look at other opportunities,” said Chahal.

“I think they’re being very upfront and honest with their assessment.”

Chahal said the project plan had them reach out to a variety of different stakeholders. That includes potential partners, sporting groups, community associations and the University of Calgary.

“I don’t think it’s a setback. I just think it’s an opportunity that we wanted to explore that didn’t materialize so we’ll just continue on working with what we were doing before,” he said.

The Ward 5 councillor did say that the entire plan is focused on developing the entire Foothills Athletic Park area. The fieldhouse was just one stream. He said the University will still be a stakeholder in the ongoing redevelopment of the entire 100-acre parcel.

In Tuesday’s City of Calgary coronavirus briefing, Mayor Nenshi also recognized the University of Calgary’s inability to participate.

“If I were in the president of the university’s shoes, I’d say ‘look, the dream of this fieldhouse is not something I can entertain right now when I’m trying to keep students in chairs,’” the mayor said.

Mayor Nenshi said it might mean a scaling back of the project. It could mean scaling up, too, depending on future partners.

Both Chahal and Mayor Nenshi said it didn’t mean the University of Calgary couldn’t participate in other parts of the project.

Project still generally on track

Coun. Chahal said the major challenge still is securing a block of funding, believed to be in the $150 million range for the fieldhouse. The city is participating with funds from its recreation levy reserve.

“I think the project’s challenge is the same as it was before. That is, we need additional funding from another order of government, to really get this project underway,” he said.

In the meantime, a report delivered to the committee Tuesday showed that prep work to put them in a position for funding is still moving ahead.

A preliminary investigation phase, consultation, technical data collection and master planning are expected to happen between now and September 2020, the report read.