Calgary river wave park launches campaign to secure federal funding

Groups hoping to capitalize on federal Liberals seeing opportunity in Calgary

A lone surfer enjoying the 10 St waves. This is the spot where the Calgary wave park would be built. ETHAN WARD/ FOR LIVEWIRE

Surf’s up this summer, as a planned Calgary river wave park is searching for some extra funding from the federal government.

Since 2018, the Calgary river wave park has been planning construction just east of the 10 Street bridge. It’s now looking to get a boost in funding. The group spearheading the project, the Alberta River Surfing Association, is campaigning to get the federal Liberal government to provide $8 million in funding so construction can begin.

The association wrote to federal infrastructure minister Catherine McKenna hoping to receive funds that would cover 80 per cent of the cost.

Multiple Calgary groups and individuals also penned their support for the project. The groups include Calgary Economic Development, Tourism Calgary, and the Downtown Calgary Association, among others.

The River Surfing Association points out one fund in particular they believe is made for a project like this.

“It is hoped funding could flow from the $200 million Natural Infrastructure Fund that was announced as part of Budget 2021. When you look at the description of the Natural Infrastructure Fund, it looks like it was almost tailor-made for a project like River Wave Park,” said the Alberta River Surfing Association in a prepared media statement.

Looking to the federal government

The precedent for this was set by Toronto when one of that city’s projects received $20 million in funding from the same fund.

Jeff Binks, the lead advocate for the river wave park said this was the perfect time to apply for funding. Binks hopes the timing gives the project a better chance of receiving that funding.

“A federal election may be on the horizon, and I think the federal Liberals look to Calgary as a city of opportunity,” Binks said.

“The challenge we are issuing to the party is to show us you know about the city. Show Calgarians you are not a party focused on just eastern Canada.”

With that extra push, those backing the wave park project believe they will be able to secure the funds they need.

Despite interest from different groups in the city, no major funding initiative had been brought forward before this. With the first push from the government, Binks said he hopes others will follow suit.

Uniquely Calgarian

Binks said that this is a uniquely Calgarian project. By securing funding, he believes it may help get Calgary out of a pandemic-caused economic funk.

“One of the hidden secrets of Calgary is our love affair with our rivers. Across the country, not many other cities have that connection with a river flowing through the city. River recreation in Calgary is genuinely unique to us. River wave park is something that can only be built in the city of Calgary,” Binks said.

The remainder of the funding is expected to be secured from private partners, the provincial government, and corporate donations.

The idea is that additional funding will be unlocked from a show of support by the Liberals. Past projects like Arts Commons are listed as precedents for the project.

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