A revised Calgary multisport fieldhouse would see sports facilities segmented rather than an all-in-one space.
The updated plan was presented at the opening meeting of the Multisport Fieldhouse committee on Wednesday.
The 2010 plan had different athletic events built with a 400M track as a focal point. The building would have a single roof span. The other event sites would be interspersed within and around the main track.
The new plan would see a different configuration with two separate roof spans. Sports fields like for soccer or lacrosse would be separated from other court space and a dedicated track and field area.
“Separate amenities would vastly reduce the number of closures of the entire facility required during events, provide more continuity and certainty to all the groups as they plan and organize their programs and activities,” said Florent Le Berre, manager service strategies, recreation and social programs with the City of Calgary.
“Another benefit of separating the amenities is the avoidance of interference between user groups during games and practices.”
It could also save money and generate more revenue. In the prior Foothills Athletic Park Redevelopment Advisory Committee (FAPRAC) plan, the proposed fieldhouse was estimated (2019) at $300 million.
The shorter spans are typically less expensive. The one-field concept could limit the widespread use of the fieldhouse. The segregated areas allow for different groups to book it without worrying about sporting conflicts.
“Revenue generation can be optimized to strike the right balance between the various users of the facility from recreational users,” said Le Berre.
City admin also said that naming rights would be on the table for annual revenue generation.
A proposed amenity refinement would include a review of seating for the different sporting areas, along with the different sports needed today and into the future.
Citizens weigh in during public submissions
Jason Zaran, chair of the Calgary Multisport Fieldhouse Society, reminded the committee that Calgary is the only major Canadian city without a fieldhouse. He, like others, mentioned that the City has had a multisport fieldhouse on the books since 1967.
He said a multisport fieldhouse is a place to help cultivate elite athletes by giving more Calgarians access to participate in sport. Zaran said athletes need a place to start, because “they don’t become elite athletes out of the box.”
“The fieldhouse is in fact a game changer because it’s that big step that you make and things fall in place after that. It’s a world class space where you can play train, compete and be active,” he said.
“It’s an iconic facility that gives us momentum and it allows us to put Calgary back on top.”
He noted Calgary has the oldest football stadium, the oldest hockey arena, and rundown Olympic facilities.
“New or upgraded facilities must be cornerstones of Calgary’s future vision,” Zaran said.
Jason Ribeiro, community advocate, Sport Calgary director and vice-chairman and president of the new Calgary Surge professional basketball team, said there are many Calgarians playing sports in unsafe locations – like warehouses.
“Let’s get kids out of those warehouses. Let’s get organizers out of renting basements at the bottom of churches and get them playing sport in an environment that is safe, that is welcoming and like this visual, which I find incredibly compelling, is really powerful for building out the city,” he said.
Others provided more information on the need for space, particularly for new —and old— sports, like padel and lacrosse and pickleball.
“Without access to facilities designed to support lacrosse, however, we’re not only limiting athletes on the national stage but also educational opportunities,” said Jillian Alexander, executive director of the Alberta Lacross Association.
Social ROI, international hosting
Ward 5 Coun. Raj Dhaliwal asked City admin about the social return on investment and making sure this was an accessible facility. He said they have a new indoor soccer turf in the northeast and he hears regularly about how unaffordable it is to rent.
“I just want to make sure it is for all Calgarians; what I mean by that is affordable, accessible, and not just for privileged groups who can afford it,” he said.
Heather Johnson, director of recreation and social programs at the City of Calgary said they would be looking at the operating model to ensure it’s fair. That would include the pricing and the tax support needed to keep prices low.
They’re also working on a Game Plan strategy, a long-term vision for publicly-funded recreation in Calgary.
The space also creates hosting opportunities for major sporting events.
The City spoke to the fact that the facility would be competition ready – not just for national or international events, but for regional and local events as well.
Carson Ackroyd with Tourism Calgary said a lack of world-class events coming to Calgary in a variety of sport disciplines isn’t due to a lack of desire. He said having the facility would attract events to the city.
“If we can get a piece of infrastructure built, I can guarantee you that we can secure the events that will drive the economic return for this investment,” he said.
Deborah Yedlin, Calgary Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said Tourism is the city’s second-largest industry. Bringing more folks to Calgary is good for business, she said.
“The fieldhouse is an opportunity for Calgary to become a jumping point for a variety of regional tourism,” she said.
“We see the multisport Field House as an economic opportunity, generating important opportunities for businesses, job creation, talent attraction, marketing our diversity, and community development.”
An amenity refinement study is expected in June 2023.