Thoughtful Calgary Herald editorial by Murray Sigler of Sport Calgary about the need for a Multisport Fieldhouse:
Sigler: City needs a field house — and a new home for Flames
By Murray Sigler
Last April, Sport Calgary advocated for a non-confrontational dialogue between the City of Calgary and the Flames ownership group to objectively address several critical questions regarding the CalgaryNEXT proposal, and to consider the merits of a so-called Plan B scenario to address the pressing need for both a multi-sport field house and a new arena for our Flames.
Much has transpired for our city over the course of this past year. Despite Calgary’s languishing economy, some encouraging signs and significant opportunities are beginning to emerge.
In 2016, our population continued to grow in both numbers and diversity, to more than 1.2 million. We have celebrated the opening of our beautiful new airport terminal, as well as the National Music Centre, the Calgary Film Centre, improvements at the Calgary Zoo and Calgary Stampede, expansion of many parks and an extension of the Rotary/Mattamy Greenway, new bike paths, as well as beginning construction of an amazing new public library.
Reflecting our inherent strengths, Calgary was judged one of the top five most livable cities in the world in the annual Economist magazine rankings. Of the dozens of criteria required for that distinction, more than half relate to sport and sport infrastructure.
Thanks to the long-term vision of our city leadership, major new community facilities recently coming on line include Shouldice Park, Calgary Tennis Centre, Remington YMCA and Great Plains. Work continues on Rocky Ridge and Seton community facilities, set to open in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
We know that sport is a major economic driver in a city such as Calgary. Indeed, over the past year, various major sport events such as the Shaw Charity Classic, Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament, Mitchell Bowl, Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, Mac’s AAA Hockey Tournament and ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating competition have brought hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefit throughout multiple sectors.
As discussions continued with the city, the Flames teams and their owners have continued to make a huge contribution to the community. The Calgary Flames Foundation has contributed $2.7 million in the past year alone. As always, the Flames, Stampeders, Hitmen and Roughnecks, along with their team members, have been engaged personally in our community and have served as important role models for our kids. In so many ways, Calgary sport needs the Flames.
Without question, Calgary is a proud sport city, with a large number of Calgarians directly involved at least recreationally. Approximately 380,000 Calgarians are registered in some 90 sports on offer by one of the more than 400 sport organizations in Calgary. Affordable, accessible sport and wellness opportunities are vital to the quality of life for all Calgarians.
Sport is vitally important at all times, but even more so to our growing population in this tough economic climate.
As for that multi-sport field house, over the past year, Sport Calgary and its member organizations, led by the Calgary Multisport Fieldhouse Society, have been actively engaged as stakeholders in the dialogue, and understand the complexity of the issues.
We continue to advocate for an outcome that addresses five must-haves for any multi-sport field house proposal, including concerns regarding amenities, ease of access, affordability, public availability and governance to help ensure that public funds are spent for public good.
In that context, the time has come for the city and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp. to answer those outstanding questions in a fact-based manner that enables city council to quickly set clear directions and make the necessary decisions that are essential elements to helping define Calgary’s future as a healthy and robust city.
More than ever, that future needs sports, including both a multi-sport field house and a new arena for our Flames.
Murray Sigler is CEO of Sport Calgary, a volunteer, non-profit society that is the voice of amateur sport in the city.