Olympians unite to save storied Calgary bobsleigh track
Published Thursday, October 10, 2019 6:56AM MDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 10, 2019 6:42PM MDT
CALGARY — A number of Olympians living in Calgary gathered at WinSport Thursday morning, pushing to ensure a future for the bobsleigh, skeleton and luge track, which was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics.
They gathered at the finish line of the track, where they trained to help make their Olympic dreams come true and showcase the positive impact the facility has had, beyond sport.
“I would never have gotten into luge if we hadn’t had this venue and had the avvess to a program to develop here,” said Alex Gough, who made history at PyeongChang 2018, winning Canada’s first-ever Olympic medal in the sliding sport.
“This legacy of the ’88 games gives youth in Calgary such an amazing opportunity to try some really unique sports and get exposed to a lot of different things you don’t necessarily have in other cities or other places.”
Excavation crews have started removing part of the track at WinSport, as part of a redesign and renovation project. The section of the track that includes the first five turns is being demolished.
“There is no plan to take down the track, we’re not working on other revenue opportunities,” said Barry Heck, CEO and president of WinsSport. “The only assurance we can give is we’re going to work very hard to do everything in our power to secure the necessary financing to get the project back on track.”
WinSport informed user groups last spring the track would not be in operation this season. While the track is not closing for good, there is no indication as to when it could reopen. Winsport doesn’t have the money to fund the $25 million project to improve the track and replace the refrigeration system.
“It’s not just about the gap in the $8 million funding for the track, it's about the entirety of the capital needs and the operating needs,” said Heck, who said it costs $750,000 to operate the track annually.
WinSport said a grant application is in to the governments Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.
Canada’s bobsleigh, skeleton and luge athletes moved their training to Whister and the United States.
“It’s the first time in 30 years we are starting the season without a Calgary track. We remain hopeful that obviously WinSport is going to keep working and that we’ll have a future for all three sliding sports in Calgary,” said Steve Harris, president of Luge Canada. “We maintain that trust with WinSport that they’re going to do what’s best with our Olympic legacies.”
Decorated Olympians say the track has a bigger impact than the sport, many chose to remain in the city after their competition days came to an end.
“This is home and this is where I want to be," said Alex Gough. “I’d really like to think that whatever down the road that I end up having a family that my kids will have the opportunity to try luge or bobsleigh or skeleton if that’s what they choose to do.”