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Calgary multisport fieldhouse amenity mix, move to design stage endorsed by committee

Various groups lined up to sing the praises of a proposed Calgary multisport fieldhouse on Monday, as the committee steering the project approved moving to detailed design.

Members of the city’s Multisport Fieldhouse Committee unanimously approved recommending the final amenity mix and direction for administration to move forward with the design. It still needs final approval at a full meeting of Calgary city council.

The final mix was delivered in a report that went to committee showing a turf area, gymnasia and a track and field area. It also showed the building orientation on the land and has a preliminary cost of $380 million.

“Our objective is to build a facility that is operationally sustainable,” said Florent Le Berre with the City of Calgary.

“Calgary lacks the adequate support infrastructure to address to attract national and international competitions and events.”

City admin said they had targeted engagement with several Calgary sporting groups to ensure the broadest feedback on the amenity mix.

Many of the sports groups had representatives on hand to speak publicly – all in favour of the new fieldhouse.

Ben Matchett, director of athletics at the University of Calgary, said there are a lot of benefits specifically for UCalgary in having a multisport fieldhouse in their backyard.

He said however, with UCalgary having the number one sports science school in North America, they also recognize the importance of creating more space for athletics to flourish in the city.

“The research or the reach of our kinesiology faculty goes beyond academics and has a tangible benefit in our society,” he said.

“For example, the recent legacy gift that created the Joan Snyder Fund for Excellence in Kinesiology will support programs that empower girls and young women to get involved in and stay involved in sport and physical activity.”

He said there’s ongoing research into the role exercise and sport in mental health.

Matchett said they would immediately bid for the National Youth Sports Track and Field Championship to host after the facility is opened.

What’s next for the fieldhouse?

While the groups that attended were in support, they still did have some suggestions for improvement.

Volleyball Alberta executive director Diane Clarke said they support the fieldhouse just to meet current demand. She said they have limited ability to foster recreational programming because of a lack of facilities.

“Athletes continue to be turned away from participation because we do not have capacity to keep up with current demand,” she said.

Clarke also suggested that further design tweaks could be made, including broader service areas and increased roof heights. Other groups suggested that there may be needed adjustments to ensure higher quality dressing rooms for higher level events, plus changes to the track and field orientation.

When asked about the next steps and accommodating potential changes, Heather Johnson, director of recreation and social programs, said the next step is to put together all of the different pieces – from the feedback to the amenity study and a procurement strategy.

“We’ll work to merge that into the concept plan to come up with a reality of a site and a facility that works,” she said.

Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian, who chairs the Multisport Fieldhouse Committee said there will have to be a few trade-offs in the process.

“I think administration has the tough job of bringing forward the best possible compromise between all of it while making sure it’s specific enough to meet people’s needs, but not so broad and flexible that it doesn’t meet anyone’s particular needs,” she said.

Still, it’s been a long time coming.

Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot said that the fieldhouse has been on recreation investment plans for years – sitting in the top spot on the capital projects list.

“It’s kind of hard to say no to something that’s been a high priority for the city for so many years,” he said.