Renovating Foothills Athletic Park

By Taylor McKee

Dutifully serving its purpose since its construction in the early 1960s, Foothills Athletic Park, which sits adjacent to the University of Calgary, is well overdue for a facelift. Foothills Athletic Park and Glenmore Athletic Park, two centrally located multisport athletic parks, are being considered for major overhauls that would upgrade the present amenities while also creating new ones.

The two parks include many courts, fields and training facilities used by athletes from the U of C and all over the city.

With the Canadian track and field trials on the horizon in June, Foothills Athletic Park is about to become one of Calgary’s most prominent athletic locations.

In between Father David Bauer Arena and the recently deserted baseball mausoleum Foothills Stadium, Foothills Athletic Park is one of the most athletically diverse areas in the city. However, the park is beginning to display limitations due to its age.

In 2008, City of Calgary Recreation founded the Recreation Amenities Gap Analysis studies to determine if new recreation facilities would be needed to cope with the evolving demands of Calgarians.

In the same year, the Calgary Sport Council created a 10 year strategic plan to develop sports facilities that identified the recreational needs of a growing Calgary and targeted the types of new facilities needed.

The results of both studies have been used as justification for the planned renovation of the athletic parks in Glenmore and Foothills. The concept plan for the redevelopment of the parks was drafted with the help of Sport Calgary and the Calgary Multisport Fieldhouse Society and presented to city council in June 2010. The plan was subsequently approved.

The modifications will not occur all at once. As stated on the City’s concept plan for the development, “It will allow for a conservative capital funding model spread out over multiple years, with the larger capital expenditures near the end of the process.”This will provide a longer term for fundraising and financial planning.”

Calgary’s manager of arenas, athletic parks and sport development Shelley Shea said the differentiated approach caters to the needs of Calgarians.

“The plan is based on the premise that we are not going to take something offline until something new is built,” Shea said. “What we are trying to do is compliment and upgrade both of those sites. They are a huge draw with the community developing around there with the access being so good for both sites.”

The concept plan also states that “if a catalyst event or significant capital funding is available sooner than expected, the phasing could be shortened.” This leaves the possibility of additional fundraising or multi-level government funding available for the planned overhaul without an enormous initial expense.

The proposed overhaul is in conjunction with similar upgrades and additions planned for the Glenmore Athletic Park in a city-wide attempt to improve the quality of athletic facilities, with the idea of persuading more athletes to stay in Calgary rather than move away to train.

“One thing we have heard loud and clear from Calgary track athletes is that they get to a certain age and then they have to leave,” said Shea. One of the proposed changes to Foothills Athletic Park is the construction of an indoor track and field centre with the potential to seat 7,500. Glenmore Athletic Park is slotted to have a new 333 metre cycling velodrome and track and field facilities inside the same building. This would mean that Calgary would then have two fieldhouses after the entire project is completed.

The indoor fieldhouse would be a major boost for track and field in Calgary as it would improve the quality of training year-round for athletes in a number of different disciplines. Presently there are few sites for sprinters to train indoors. One facility available is the Olympic Oval with a diminutive sprint pad and crowded running track, unable to support the demands of those who train recreationally and those who train competitively. The sentiment of frustration is common among Calgarian track and field athletes. The Calgary Multisport Fieldhouse Society was incorporated in April 2008 with the mandate of creating a multisport facility that could house regional, national or international events while training Calgarian athletes in world class facilities.

The CMFS identified the planned redevelopment of Foothills and Glenmore Park as a perfect opportunity to build Calgary’s first purpose-built fieldhouse. Fundraising attempts for this fieldhouse include a 4×100 metre relay in June where teams pay a $2,012 registration fee to race with a celebrity anchor. The proceeds of the event will directly to fund the CMFS.

Calgarian athletes like U of C track team captain Adam Clark said he wants to train at better indoor facilities like those available in other cities. For example, Edmonton has two fieldhouses that allow track and field athletes to train in a purpose-built track and field setting.

“There is a huge temptation to leave Calgary for better facilities . . . A lot of the top athletes are leaving to places that have fieldhouses set up already,” Clark said. “It’s something that we are always trying to battle with, keeping the kids here.”

Already having invested a large amount of time and money into the initial stages of the proposed overhaul, the plan is going back to city council in fall to discuss the next stage in the development of both parks. “The need from the university’s perspective is helping to garner support from students, faculty and user groups about the need for this type of facility,” Shea said.

The ultimate goal moving forward is to obtain a developing permit on the sites, although the timeline for completion is approximately 10 years for all of the various components.

The complex is presently facing rising operating costs from the aging facilities, meaning that without the overhaul, new generations of athletes will be left with fields and buildings progressively worse thanthe already financially stretched parks that exist today. These improvements would be a welcome boon, not just to the often neglected university track team, but future athletes who may now choose to stay in Calgary rather than move away in search of world class facilities. rather than move away in search of world class facilities.

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