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Vivo opens first-of-its-kind indoor park, brand new amenities in expansion

With a ribbon cutting on Oct. 5, the 10-year project to expand Vivo was officially completed, opening Calgary’s first-ever indoor park to the public.

The $62 million project to provide enhanced year-round park space and enhanced aquatics facilities was widely lauded by community members, government officials, and longtime stakeholders.

Cynthia Watson, Chief Evolution Officer for Vivo, called the completion liberating for community members.

“We’ve held this project and all the wishes and dreams in the community for 10 years, and now we can release that and allow the community to enjoy it and come in and make it the space that they want it to be,” she said.

The indoor park space features artificial indoor rolling hills, accessible fitness equipment, numerous skylights and open window spaces, and room for community events and gatherings.

In addition to the park, Vivo unveiled its renovated aquatics centre, which features state-of-the-art amenities for play, along with a traditional multi-lane pool.

Watson said that the design of the new spaces came about as a result of wanting to connect Calgarians to a space that was available for all seasons, in an inclusive way.

“I think what we love about the indoor Park, it really is that literal moving of outdoors indoors. What I love is that it’s a combination of water, air, fire, and all the elements that really create that sense of well-being,” she said.

The park becomes fully available to the public on Oct. 6, while the aquatics centre is having a soft opening to Vivo members at the end of October to fine-tune programming.

Vivo, which already serves 140,000 residents of northeast Calgary, is expected to draw from a wider reach of Calgarians said Watson as a result of the expansion.

The federal and provincial governments provided $15 million each, for $30 million of the project’s cost. Watson said that overall it was a $57 million construction project, with an additional $3 million for existing facility upgrades and another $2 million for programming.

Jeff Hillyard, Senior Vice President for BMO Commercial Bank, left, Vivo Chief Experience Officer Cynthia Watson, and Minister for Advanced Education Rajan Sawhney cut the ribbon on the BMO Collaboratory at Vivo in Calgary on Thursday, October 5, 2023. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Space includes health research

Watson said that all the way through the design the goal was to create a space not just for any one group, but for all people.

“We wanted it to attract more humans of all ages and abilities, and to have a good inclusive space where everyone can feel that they can belong,” she said.

Part of that goal, she said, extended into research into improving health, and creating healthier generations—the tagline of Vivo.

The indoor park is also the new home of the BMO Collaboratory, which Watson said has been used to explore and research healthy living solutions.

“It is really meant to be a place where Calgarians can come together to support healthy living solutions that work for them. Instead of being the experts in people’s health, how do we put that back into the hands of the people to explore what that might be for them,” she said.

She said that the Collaboratory had already been used by the Public Health Agency of Canada to inform the design of the indoor space to encourage children’s play, their shared responsibility and connection to the indoor park, and how to make better decisions around healthy living.

Jeff Hillyard, Senior Vice President and Head of Prairies Region for BMO Commercial Bank, said that his organization’s $300,000 donation to the Collaboratory was an opportunity to help Calgarians be healthier.

“A thriving economy is predicated on healthy and vibrant communities,” he said.

“And that’s why Vivo’s mission to nurture and partner in a holistic mindset for healthy living through these types of facilities, is very tried and true aligned with with BMO’s values and our core purpose as an institution and a corporate citizen.”

Project defined political careers in addition to community building

Mayor Jyoti Gondek, who previously served on the Vivo board of directors, said that she was privileged to have been part of the creation of the project.

“I think it was about seven years ago in 2016, when I was sitting around a boardroom table with some amazing members of the board at the time and the leadership team when I said, ‘you know if we can’t get funding from the city, maybe I should just run for councillor and get it myself,'” she said.

“I have to say it was an absolute privilege and pleasure as your Ward 3 councillor back in the day to fight for the expansion dollars that are so desperately needed for this facility.”

Minister for Advanced Education Rajan Sawhney, who was previously the MLA for Calgary North-East before running in Calgary North-West in the last general election, said that she was glad to support funding for the project in the Alberta Legislature.

“I remember meeting all the community partners and just really understanding how much passionate advocacy there was behind this project. Fast forward to a few months later, I was in the legislature, it was an all-nighter and to my left was the former Minister of Finance Minister Travis Toews,” she said.

“I was able to paint a picture for him. That picture of how transformational this facility would be for seniors, for our youth, for children who were earlier today bouncing on the BOSU balls, and for the most vulnerable in our communities.”