“You could host competitions. Provincial, national, even international. . .”

One miserable winter day in 2007, a handful of Calgary runners were working out on the running track of the Olympic Oval. They were grateful to be out of the cold and glad to be able to run without risking life and limb on the icy streets. But the track’s two lanes were crowded and, as usual, having to weave in and out of the traffic had made their training session an adventure.

“Wouldn’t it be nice,” they mused, “if we had a real 400m, eight-lane indoor track in Calgary.

“Think about it. With a 400m track you’ve got a huge infield. You could put in volleyball, basketball, tennis, badminton courts. You could have a turf surface for soccer, football, ultimate frisbee. There could be weight training rooms, physiotherapy, fitness facilities.

“You could host competitions. Provincial, national, even international. . .”

Unlike most such conversations, that one didn’t die there. The runners talked to their friends, who talked to their friends and the movement gathered strength until, in April 2008, its supporters formally incorporated as the Calgary Multisport Fieldhouse Society. With a diverse and enthusiastic Board of Directors and supporters, they set about the work of turning a dream into reality. The current Board of Directors continues that work.

This One Tree Somewhere

The idea of a fieldhouse for Calgary isn’t new. In fact, efforts to provide such a facility go back more than 40 years.

The eleven-member executive committee was made up of concerned citizens and public servants — many of whom are still known or fondly remembered by the sports and recreation community in Calgary.

  • Doug Kyle, athlete and sport advocate
  • John Mayell, Supervisor of Athletics for the Calgary School Board and responsible for the original sport development programs in our schools
  • Max Bell, publisher and philanthropist — responsible for arenas and arts facilities still in use
  • Harry Boothman, visionary and leader, Director of Parks, Recreation and Cemeteries for the City.

The committee represented some of the best minds of the time on the subject and their document made statements that ring true for our community even 40 years later.

An Indoor Amateur Sports Centre is needed for southern Alberta to:

  • upgrade physical fitness in Alberta’s youth,
  • overcome Alberta’s winters,
  • prepare Alberta athletes for national and international competition,
  • improve the general quality of athletes,
  • provide needed indoor facilities for over 35 amateur sports, and
  • make athletic and recreation facilities available to all citizens.

Amateur Sports Council, January 1967. pg. 3

Over the years, the quest for a multisport fieldhouse has been largely driven by the track and field community, but other sports groups have had input as well.

Indoor Track in the 60's

In the mid-1960’s, CALTAF (the Calgary Track and Field Athletic Association) rented an indoor wooden track to be used at the former Stampede Corral. It had four lanes of temporary track, 200m long and banked on the corners. In the center were six lanes on which athletes could run 50m sprints.

In 1969 an international track meet was held in the Corral. The highlight was the setting of a world indoor record in the 50 yards, by Frank Budd of the USA.

One of the outcomes of that competition was the creation in the 1970s of a committee (Ken Newans, Hans Maciej, and architect Ray Barker and others) to look into the feasibility of building a fieldhouse with a four-lane track. Unfortunately, the idea died on the planning board.

Later in the 1970s, the City of Calgary Recreation Department and the city school boards proposed a cooperative venture, but it wasn’t feasible at that time. However, two outdoor tracks were built that are still in use: Glenmore Athletic Park and Foothills Athletic Park.

The Quest for a Multisport Fieldhouse

In the 1980s, Minor Sport Calgary submitted a proposal for a “mini field house” to help mark Alberta’s 75th Anniversary celebrations. The facility was designed to accommodate volleyball, basketball, badminton and track and field. At the same time, local aquatic organizations were lobbying for a 50m pool and diving tank. The City of Calgary decided to combine the two projects into what became the Lindsay Park Sports Centre (now Talisman Centre.)

In 1987, the Calgary Booster Club initiated plans to create a full-scale fieldhouse. However, Calgary’s successful bid for the 1988 Winter Olympics put that project on indefinite hold as CODA went to work building world-class winter sports venues including the Olympic Oval and Canada Olympic Park.

Twenty years later, in December, 2007, the Facilities Committee of the Calgary Track Council commissioned a discussion paper to once again look at the development of a multisport indoor fieldhouse for Calgary.

The introduction points out that, in spite of Calgary’s strong history of facilitating amateur and professional sports, adequate facilities for indoor track and field training and multisport facilities are still lacking.

“Calgary Multi-sport Fieldhouse”
Preliminary Conceptual Proposal, December 2007. pg. 3

“Facilities such as the Olympic Oval, the Pengrowth Saddledome and Canada Olympic Park have allowed athletes to train and compete locally, particularly in winter sports. However, Calgary’s growth and prosperity have put immense pressure on sport and recreation; local sport facilities simply cannot keep up with demand.

In particular, the sport of track and field is lacking facilities for training and competition. While various facilities have indoor tracks, they are primarily for recreational runners and are incapable of hosting any indoor track events at the provincial, national and international levels.”

At this time, Calgary does not have an indoor track with an infield area, which can accommodate a full indoor track meet.”

Besides track and field, many other sporting groups in Calgary lack adequate training and competition facilities. And that brings us to today and the Calgary Multisport Fieldhouse Society.

Their mission is “to build and operate a world-class indoor, multisport fieldhouse in Calgary.”

Ideally, the facility would house a 400m track. Such a facility would provide an ideal venue for a host of sports and activities including: track and field, baseball, football, field hockey, archery, basketball, badminton, fitness classes, handball, squash, gymnastics, boxing, tennis, soccer, cricket, rugby, lacrosse, fencing, floor hockey, physical education classes, volleyball, judo, wrestling, weight lifting and ultimate Frisbee.