Great column by Licia Corbella in the Calgary Herald on January 29, 2019:
If length of waiting time has anything to do with which large project Calgary city council funds next, then the field house has it.
Tucked away beside an entire basement wall of track-and-field medals, trophies and other sporting memorabilia won over a lifetime, Doug Kyle pulls out a 28-page report from 1967 simply titled: Indoor Amateur Sports Centre Feasibility Study.
Considering that the median age of Calgarians is about 37 years old according to Statistics Canada, most residents weren’t even born when this idea was first officially presented to council 52 years ago this month. A field house has been on Calgary’s books ever since.
How is it that Edmonton can afford to have three field houses and Calgary can’t even build one?
“It’s long, long overdue for this field house to get built,” said Kyle, an 86-year-old grandfather and two-time Olympian in the 5,000 and 10,000 metre races in both the 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics and the 1960 Olympics in Rome. Wife Carol, whose medals and trophies from her time as a high jumper and golfer also grace their southwest basement, says she never would have dreamed that she’d be 84 and Calgary would still be without a dedicated building where athletes can practice and play soccer, baseball, track, lacrosse, rugby and other field sports year round.
Back in 1967, when Doug was working in the oil patch as he and Carol raised their son and daughter, he was the volunteer head coach of the Calgary Track and Field Club. His track athletes had to travel all over the city, including Western Canada High School’s gym and oddly in a tunnel system students at Branton Junior High School dug out themselves, nicknamed the Earthworm and eventually converted into a real basement.
“For competitions, we had to travel mostly to Edmonton,” shrugged Kyle. “Calgary loses out on millions of dollars of visitors because of our lack of a field house and youth move away to train elsewhere.”
On Monday, city council did what it is wont to do. It went behind closed doors to discuss four large potential projects: an event centre (AKA hockey arena/concert venue) with a cost of $604 million; BMO Convention Centre upgrades at $500 million; the field house at an estimated $250 million; and Arts Commons upgrades at $418 million.
It’s safe to say that Arts Commons should be at the bottom of the wish list. Those facilities — while ghastly looking from the outside — still provide awesome sound and comfort inside.
The event centre is essential, not just for the revitalization of the Rivers District but to ensure the future of the Calgary Flames in this city. Many Calgarians are also fed up watching Edmonton bring in large concert acts that bypass Calgary owing to the Saddledome’s iconic but impractical curved roof.
Jason Zaran, chair of the Calgary Multisport Fieldhouse Society, said that while he’s obviously “a little biased,” his hope is that council finds some money for a field house.
“We might not get all the money, but we hope that they tip that first domino and get the field house moving towards funding,” said Zaran, a Calgary entrepreneur who coaches track and field as a volunteer.
“The field house is the most affordable of all of the projects and currently the city does have an Arts Commons; we do have the Saddledome; we do have the BMO Convention Centre. I’d love to see us be able to fund all of these projects because I’m proud of our city but we’ve never had a field house,” said Zaran. “People have been waiting a lifetime for this.”