Audit finds former Calgary mayor's office chose sites for new sports facilities

The City of Calgary’s auditor says the recreation department failed to follow its own rules when six sites were selected for $154 million in new sports facilities last year.

Auditor says normal processes bypassed; Gondek concerned

A runner trains at an athletic park in this file photo. The city plans to spend millions bringing new facilities to far corners of Calgary. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The City of Calgary's auditor says the recreation department failed to follow its own rules when six sites were selected for $154 million in new sports facilities last year. 

The audit report was discussed by council's audit committee on Thursday. It said the selections should have been made through administration's internal processes and that funding decisions should have been made part of the city's four year budget cycle.

But instead, the selections were made through the mayor's office in an unusually speedy, three-week period – during an election year.

City council directed that the six projects be placed in underserved areas. 

Once selected, the projects were unanimously greenlighted by council.

The list included twin arenas at Glenmore Park, two fieldhouses, two athletic parks and a new air-supported dome at the Calgary Soccer Centre.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek says city administration should have pushed back and insisted on the proper selection procedure.

"If administration has a process, it needs to be followed. Political interference is a very dangerous thing. And I can see that this is all covered in this report. I'm very happy that audit caught this," she said.

"This is not happening in the current mayor's office. We are not intervening and interfering with processes that have clear criteria."

Former mayor Naheed Nenshi told CBC News he has nothing to say on the matter.

He said neither he nor his office members were interviewed for the audit and that their recollections are "quite different from what appears in the report."

Gondek said Calgary sorely needs more recreational facilities, but the way projects are chosen must be transparent in order to make sure amenities are equitably distributed around the city. 

"I don't know why administration agreed to a three-week turnaround. That continues to haunt me," she said. 

"I do hope administration becomes stronger in their resolve to point out to the politicians, maybe there's some caution that's warranted in making decisions like this."

The breakdown of new facilities and the cost is:

  • Northeast Regional Fieldhouse at Skyview Ranch: $32 million.
  • Northeast Athletic Park at Saddle Ridge: $25 million. 
  • Northwest Athletic Park at Rocky Ridge: $14 million.
  • Southeast Air Inflated Structure (Dome) at the Soccer Centre: $6 million.
  • Southwest Regional Fieldhouse at Belmont: $32 million.
  • Southwest Twin Arena Redevelopment at Glenmore Athletic Park: $45 million.

Most of the money for the new facilities will come from developer levies and city reserve funds. 

With files from Scott Dippel


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