Calgary Herald Article, June 18

Sport Calgary wants council to decide on field house before October election

More from Bryan Passifiume

Published on: June 18, 2017 | Last Updated: June 18, 2017 8:26 PM MDT

Calgary’s sports advocate group is urging city council to make commitments on new sports facilities before October’s election.

A news release issued Friday by Sport Calgary is urging city council to approve a new field house — which had been included as part of the contentious CalgaryNEXT proposal — before the next municipal election. 

“The time has come for fact-based decisions that enable city council to define Calgary’s future as a healthy and robust city,” said Sport Calgary CEO Murray Sigler.

“More than ever that future needs sport, including both a multi-sport field house and a new arena/events centre.”

Coun. Jim Stevenson said the field house, which sports a price tag upwards of $200 million, still ranks very high on city hall’s priority list.

“It’s the No. 1 item on our list of things to do,” he said. 

“Securing the land of where it’s going to go is one of the things being talked about.”

One of those sites is the old Burns Stadium site near 24th Avenue and Crowchild Trail N.W., just southeast of the University of Calgary campus and adjacent to McMahon Stadium.

“I don’t think we’ve shirked our responsibility on this, I think it’s still in the forefront,” Stevenson said.

“I think we’re looking all those things, including a fix-up of McMahon Stadium as well, because that’s part and parcel of the deal.”

Keeping the field house close to the U of C is also a priority for Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who said that location is vital in ensuring it gets used to its fullest potential. 

“It’s unfortunate that CalgaryNEXT attached the field house to their project,” he said.

“The thing that makes the field house pencil-out, and not even financially but from a utilization perspective, is if it’s up by the university.”

He agreed that keeping the facility near the university is the best return on the project’s hefty investment.

“If it doesn’t sit right next to the university, and is plugged in to the kinesiology work of the university, it’s going to sit empty for too many hours of every day.”

Sticking to CalgaryNEXT’s original plan of co-locating it with a new arena in the West Village would be too far to be of practical and convenient use to U of C students, Carra added.

“I appreciate Sport Calgary’s advocacy for the field house, I’m a huge supporter and champion of that, but I also feel we need a new arena,” he said.

“But I’m not a champion of public dollars for that.”

Carra maintains that while council is still supportive of the field house project, he doubts council is in a financial position to provide a sound, set solution before October’s election. 

“I absolutely believe the field house proposal is our single-most important unfunded recreation project,” he said. 

“It’s at the top of the unfunded list, and it needs to be moved to the funded list.”

On Twitter: @bryanpassifiume