$69 million to update facilities, train future Olympians

By Katy Anderson

The Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary will get some major renovations after an Alberta government announcement of $69 million in funding to improve facilities for winter Olympic sporting events, Mon. Nov. 20.

“The facilities that we have here are nearing 20 years of age,” said Alberta Minister of Community Development Denis Duscharme. “They are overdue for refurbishment. The technologies, the training, [have] changed dramatically. We felt it was not only great for our national athletes, but it also gives the incentive for all our Canadian youth–Albertans included–to participate in sport at a younger age and hopefully they’ll have that [Olympic] dream.”

The project is scheduled for completion by 2009. Duscharme admitted that this would do little to help 2010’s athletes, but pointed out that the Canadian Olympic Development Association designed the project so it can be built in stages. The first stage includes a basic complex that will be used for 2010 Olympic athletes.

“The total project is $276 million,” said Duscharme. “The province has contributed 25 per cent of that amount, $69 million. The other 75 per cent will be the challenge for the CODA board to work with the federal government, municipal governments, other sporting organizations from across the land, and of course, the corporate sector.”

CODA president and CEO Bob Nicolay said he hopes the private sector will support the new facility.

“We have been working with all three levels of government,” said Nicolay. “This is also a project that we believe corporate Canada will have a particular interest in. This is an opportunity to honour the flag, honour the country and in a very tangible way make a difference to our athletes.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2007. Plans are not yet complete, but there will be four new ice sheets and administrative buildings.

This donation is part of a push towards athletic excellence after the 2002 Olympics. The Alberta government has donated to many projects, including $25.6 million to Canmore’s Nordic Centre and a $600,000 donation last fall to upgrade the ski jumping training centre at Canada Olympic Park.

The donation allows Alberta athletes to compete against the world’s best, explained Nicolay.

“The Olympic speed skating oval is part of this initiative as well,” said Nicolay. “We will ensure that we still have the best ice in the world at the speed skating oval when this project is done”

Nicolay explained that the roof of the Oval is a priority, adding that there has been a capital plan for the Oval in place for years.

Three-time Olympian and member of the national women’s hockey team Danielle Goyette said the money will help Olympic athletes, women’s hockey and the national women’s hockey team, and will also create recreational opportuities, promoting a healthy lifestyle for many Albertans.

“If you think about the future it’s going to be the young girls and boys that are going to use theses facilities and be able to train to one day to go to the Olympics,” said Goyette.

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