Calgary’s field house project to move into design phase

Construction on the project would take an estimated five years and could break ground after the designs were finalized — if funding for the field house was secured

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Calgary’s multi-sport field house project is moving into the design phase after a city council committee voted in support of the proposed facility’s amenity mix at a Monday meeting.

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Committee members voted unanimously in favor of the amenity plan for the field house in Foothills Athletic Park, giving the green light to the project’s core. It consists of a track and field area, a gymnasia and an indoor artificial turf field, with spaces designed to be configured for additional sports.

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Work is now set to begin to create detailed design plans for how to build those spaces, as well as address other questions, such as integrating the project with nearby transportation infrastructure.

Construction on the project would take an estimated five years and could break ground after the designs were finalized, if funding was secured.

Preliminary estimates peg the cost of the facility at $380 million; the city has committed $109 million but will need to secure additional funding, including from other levels of government, to move forward with construction.

University of Calgary athletic director says field house would allow school to place bid for U Sports track and field championships

Count. Jasmine Mian, the chair of the committee in charge of the field house, said the project is long overdue, with this type of indoor sports facility on the city’s priority list of unfunded projects for decades.

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“(The) field house for a long time, in my opinion, felt like a little bit of an orphan that needed that little bit of a push,” Mian said. “We have to think about not just all of the needs that we had 10 years ago, but the needs that we’re going to have.”

Numerous speakers appeared before the council to voice support for the field house, including those representing youth basketball, volleyball and soccer organizations who say the growing demand for playing and training time is straining current supply levels. The city could be at a point where two field house projects could be supported, said City of Calgary sports director Heather Johnson.

One speaker, Chris Wallin, a member of the local baseball community, worried the plan represented “addition by subtraction,” saying he didn’t want baseball facilities at Foothills Athletic Park to be lost in the project’s construction. Johnson said that Foothills baseball infrastructure is past its life span and needs to be decommissioned, but that the city is looking into options to increase the size and quality of existing diamonds.

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The project also drew support from the University of Calgary, whose athletic director Ben Matchett told the school’s council would bid to bring the U Sports collegiate track-and-field championships to the field house if it was approved and built.

Field house not tied to Calgary’s bid for the Commonwealth Games

Jason Zaran, chair of the Calgary Multisport Fieldhouse Society, a volunteer group that has pushed for a facility since 2008, said a field house will help Calgary athletes save on traveling for competitions.

“This place will be very busy, I promise you. This will attract national and international events,” Zaran said. “Sports groups fighting for expensive track, turf and court time and driving to Edmonton to compete in one of their multiple facilities doesn’t cut it anymore.”

Proponents of the field house have touted its potential for attracting events and generating revenue, with the city estimating a wide range of annual economic benefits ranging anywhere from $20 million to $63.6 million a year.

The project would be a central element of Alberta’s 2030 Commonwealth Games bid if constructed, but officials say the two ventures are independent of one another.

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Twitter: @jasonfherring

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