Inner city Calgarians won’t have to travel far to play basketball, with the opening of three new basketball courts at Century Gardens in downtown Calgary.
The new triple three-on-three courts were designed to increase access to sport and programming activities at the downtown park.
“This sport court is really more than just a simple place to come and play basketball,” said Sheila Taylor, CEO of Parks Foundation Calgary.
“These types of amenities add activation, inclusion, fun and a sense of belonging to community.”
The new courts mirror the successful design for one of the fastest growing types basketball, that was first opened in Bridgeland in September of 2022.
The courts, which cost approximately $300,000 to construct, were paid for in part by the City of Calgary and by the Calgary Surge CEBL professional basketball team.
“Right from the beginning, we said that it’s important for us to connect all four quadrants of the city—in particular youth—and we’ve seen countless times basketball being a sport that requires literally no barriers,” said Calgary Surge chair Usman Jutt.
“For us to be able to help put this together with a team of partners, has been a phenomenal part of making sure that there was an accessible place for people to walk up to. There’s literally no barriers for a kid to walk off the train, get onto the court with a ball, and start shooting hoops.”
There is no cost to use the new hoops and they can be used anytime that the park is open to the public.
Taylor praised the openness and free aspect of the court, as a way to engage the public.
“You’re gonna have people of all ages and abilities out here trying basketball. It’s not going to be an exclusive setting like a traditional sport court can sometimes be,” she said.
Asset to downtown residents
Cejassiee Ingole, an international student who represented the Indian state of Maharashtra as captain of the Women’s basketball team, said that she was excited when the courts were beginning to be installed.
Ingole, who is studying to be an engineer, said that her schedule of studies makes it difficult to go to the U of C courts often to play basketball.
“The court was built very fast, like in seven to eight days, which was a miracle come true because I haven’t seen such a great and awesome basketball court constructed in such a short time span,” she said.
“I’m really glad to come in here. You will see me more often here.”
She said that it is the first time she’s seen three courts in one and was impressed by how many people could play at once.
Ingole agreed with Jutt that the new courts opened up access to basketball, saying that at other courts there can often be fees associated to use those facilities.
“Giving this facility for free is the biggest thing,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Dan McLean said that the new courts would be a place that community could be built.
“The sport court here, that was a natural idea and an opportunity to draw people into Century Gardens and provide the Downtown Core, Downtown West, and the Beltline with a recreation facility that were much needed.”
“This area of Century Gardens was a blank canvas, and we asked what can we do to build a great communities base that serves downtown residents of all ages.”
Programming for wellness, and safety
McLean said that the courts would also be used come the fall for different events.
Taylor said that having the flat surface opened the programming opportunities to other sporting events and festivals, and to provide access to those events with mobility challenges.
“There’s very few park spaces in downtown but there’s a lot of people living here that need places to go and enjoy them. So it’s critical that we have good park and sport amenities in our downtown core,” she said.
She said that the new court, and the Parks Foundation in general, was working towards bringing positive use to spaces.
Prior to the redevelopment of the space by the City of Calgary, Century Gardens had a reputation as being unsafe for visitors.
“Certainly, there are areas of our city that face a lot of challenges. But what we find that the Parks Foundation is if you activate those areas, bring lots of positive use to them, you can elevate what goes on in that area,” Taylor said.
“Another example of where this was done is Flyover Park underneath the Fourth Avenue flyover, which was once a pretty tough area, and is now teeming with positive activities.”
Mark Garner, Executive Director for the Calgary Downtown Association said that once an area becomes activated, like Century Gardens, the community will come to own that space again.
“The CDA, we’re doing Transit Tuesdays here, we’re doing programming—this space needs to be programmed, and making sure that it’s accessible and inclusive for everybody,” he said.
“We’re programming just off the court space. We’ve done festivals and events here, and Beakerhead has been in this location.”
He said that the new courts were yet another way that residents in the west end were being supported and that future residential intensification programs were being supported.