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Prelim amenity mix laid out for Calgary multisport fieldhouse

Flexibility is being built into the design to accommodate many new and emerging sports, Coun. Jasmine Mian said.

The first look at the amenity mix for Calgary’s proposed multisport fieldhouse shows that flexibility for the space is a priority, said the committee chair.

The amenity refinement study update is coming up on Monday at the Multisport Fieldhouse committee meeting, and it provides the baseline mix of sports facilities it can include.  The fieldhouse became the focus of a redevelopment of the Foothills Athletic Park earlier this year.  

City admin is asking the committee to endorse the amenity proposal “that will be refined through targeted engagement.”

This is the latest step in the city’s pursuit of a multisport fieldhouse. In March, committee members were provided an update on the change in the structure of the building. Changes were made to the structure to allow for more flexibility and to change the single-span design in hopes of reducing the facility’s overall cost.

To date, there is no new costed figure, though a 2019 estimate was around $300 million.

The preliminary plan calls for a three-fold overarching breakdown for the new facility: Track and field, gymnasia and an artificial turf field. Each of these proposed areas could be transformed into as many as 13 different sporting areas (individual track and field sports not included in that tally), and varied seating capacity for each venue.

“The whole theme of this baseline amenity mix and figuring it out has really been around flexibility and adaptability and being able to have as many sports accommodated as possible,” said Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian, who chairs the committee.

“I think that shows that we are really trying to build a facility with an eye to meeting the needs of all Calgarians but also being flexible enough that we can accommodate sports as they emerge.”

The different variations in most of the sports would meet competition hosting requirements for many international sporting bodies, the city report reads.

Multisport fieldhouse Basel… by Darren Krause

Increased flexibility, increased cost?

When asked if creating a design that’s flexible means that the facility cost could jump, Mian said already the cost of everything has jumped.

She said, however, that by building in the flexibility, there’s resilience in the operating model.

“There are really very few things that this multisport fieldhouse wouldn’t be able to accommodate, and I think that’s so important,” Coun. Mian said.

“You look at the way that we used to build recreation facilities; they didn’t have that same flexibility to them.”

One of the reasons behind the structure change was to segment the areas so there was less conflict.

“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 of service strategies, recreation and social programs with the City of Calgary, at last month’s meeting.

That’s a big part of how this project – and the design – moves forward, Mian said.

“That means that you never have to shut down one amenity to use another amenity,” she said. With that, more user groups can operate in the planned facility instead of closing the area off. That increases the potential revenue the facility could generate.

“I think the fact that we have spectator seating, we have the ability to change things in and out so that it works for so many different sports, is great for the user experience, but it’s also a really smart financial decision,” Mian said.

Report pegs 2025 construction start

The administration report shows 2023 will be the final amenity review and then a concept design. In 2024, they have a detailed design slated. The timeline suggests a shovel-ready project by 2025.

An important note: Prior plans have also included timelines but those were not specifically met.

Mian said they’re moving on this project as fast as possible.

“I believe that this project should have been delivered to Calgarians about a decade ago,” she said.

“We picked it up and really moved it quite a ways down the field and in just a few short months.”

They’re having conversations with both levels of government for funding. The city has roughly $120 million of its own to add to the project.

Calgary MP George Chahal told LiveWire Calgary earlier this year that he’s long been a supporter of the fieldhouse project. He was the chair of the Foothills Athletic Park Redevelopment Advisory Committee (FAPRAC) when he was a member of Calgary city council.

While the city included the fieldhouse funding on its list of priorities for the provincial budget, it wasn’t funded. Mian said, however, they’re having productive conversations.

“The support is there. I think that we’re just in a bit of a holding pattern right now and we’ll kind of see what comes down the pipe as those conversations are ongoing,” Mian said.

The city will have more engagement through May and June, they’ll generate operating and social return on investment analyses before a final amenity mix is proposed.

If this preliminary amenity mix is approved, it would still need approval at a full meeting of Calgary city council.