Prospect of Olympic bid improves hopes of fieldhouse for Calgary
Published Wednesday, October 10, 2018 2:30PM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 10, 2018 8:15PM MDT
For the past 50 years, different groups have been trying to get an indoor multisport fieldhouse built in Calgary but the idea of an Olympic bid has renewed their hopes that the task will finally be complete.
The Calgary Multisport Fieldhouse Society has been working to try and get a fieldhouse built in the city since 2007 but others have been trying since as far back as 1967. They say it’s an essential piece of sports infrastructure, especially given Calgary’s changeable weather.
“The best advertisement for a fieldhouse, sadly as much as I’m shivering and we are all cold, has been this past year,” said Jason Zaran, chair of the society. “We had snow until mid-April and then you have snow again October 2.”
He says that all the sports that are played outside often have to leave the city because there is no home for them here.
The last time that the society was close to getting a fieldhouse was when the Flames ownership group presented CalgaryNEXT in the West Village. Unfortunately, that proposal was tossed out but the next best chance has come with the Olympic bid plan.
“To have it as part of the Olympics is exciting and if it helps us get it to be a reality and get it funded and get it funded by other levels of government and through the IOC, even better. We can’t lose track of the fact that it needs to be built.”
Zaran says that a fieldhouse would have benefits for athletes of both winter and summer sports because both disciplines require an element of dry land training.
“It really starts with playing, training and then competing. Every athlete that we’ve seen now that’s elite started by playing.”
One of those elite-level athletes, Olympic bobsledder Alysia Rissling, says that a fieldhouse is an essential part of her training.
“There’s very few places you can go indoors that have the full track for you to be able to get those types of drills, running and sprinting.”
Rissling adds that a fieldhouse would also contribute to community wellness too.
“We need to be really stressing having our community stay active and just having a fieldhouse facility like that, we can make it more accessible for people to do that.”
Growing up in Edmonton, Rissling says she had access to not just one but two fieldhouses and both helped her athletic career immensely.
“I had soccer practices at the Kinsmen Fieldhouse [and] I got to run in the Edmonton Journal Games as an elementary school kid. That was my first exposure to track and field. We got bused in and there were thousands of kids.”
Mayor Naheed Nenshi says that if an Olympic bid goes ahead, he is certain that a fieldhouse will be built in Calgary but if there is no bid, the project is still high on the priority list.
“I know that people who love soccer and track and field and need more indoor sports facilities which we really need are sick of me saying it’s our top unfunded priority and we gotta find money for it. It’s very expensive. The Olympics will give us that great facility if we move forward and if not, it still remains a priority; I just have to find the money.”
The society hopes the fieldhouse will have a full, 400m indoor running track and space to house dozens of other sports including soccer, basketball and volleyball.
Calgary is the only major Canadian city without a fieldhouse and many smaller cities, including Lethbridge, Saskatoon and Regina have had one for years.
(With files from Shaun Frenette)