Calgary has lost at least $10M due to lack of sports facilities, report warns

Calgary has missed out on a dozen sports competitions in recent years because its facilities aren't considered good enough, a report says.

Councillor wants upgrades to sports infrastructure to put Calgary back in contention

A lack of sports facilities, like this stand-alone fieldhouse which was proposed in 2013, is costing the city, according to a report. (Calgary Multisport Fieldhouse Society)

A city report has found a dozen sporting events have by-passed Calgary because its facilities are inadequate.

Not getting those competitions to land here has cost the city's economy $10 million from the participants alone.

There could have also been additional spending by spectators, family members and by organizers if those events had been held in Calgary.

Two city councillors, George Chahal and Diane Colley-Urquhart, asked the city's administration for a tally of the events that Calgary has failed to attract since 2014.

The list includes:

  • FIFA Women's World Cup games.
  • Canadian Masters Rowing Championships.
  • Canadian Canoe Kayak spring championships.
  • World Junior Swimming Championships.
  • Men's World Lacrosse Championships.
  • National skating championships.
  • International cricket event.
  • Canadian ringette championships.
  • World indoor athletics masters championships.
  • Two national volleyball championships.

Chahal said the report spells out there are deficiencies in Calgary's sports infrastructure that council needs to remedy in coming years.

Not just about competitive athletes

While that spending could help attract events to the city, he said it's also about ensuring a quality lifestyle for Calgarians.

"Sport is an important part of our community, our culture and our society and it's a great opportunity for our youth in our community through sport to learn some great life skills, and health and wellness."

The report points out a number of deficiencies in Calgary's sports facilities.

Some rowing competitions won't come to Calgary because it lacks a 2,000-metre-long water course. The one on Glenmore reservoir is only 1,500 metres long.

Calgary missed out on the Canadian ringette championships as it doesn't have a facility with six ice sheets. 

Coun. George Chahal said it's time for Calgary to fund a fieldhouse. (CBC)

Chahal said some of these missed opportunities could be captured if the city had a fieldhouse, something that has been sitting at the top of the city's unfunded capital projects list for a number of years. 

"We're losing on important sports that youth in Calgary play — basketball, volleyball," said Chahal. "I think not having a fieldhouse really impacts our ability to get a lot of sports events here in Calgary."

He's hoping this sparks a conversation about sports facilities as work continues on the city's upcoming four-year budget plan.

Fieldhouse could be big piece of puzzle

A fieldhouse, which could cost more than $200 million, remains a top priority with the CEO of Sport Calgary.

Murray Sigler said while city council has to balance a lot of sports needs in the community, a fieldhouse could be a catalyst for a lot of sport events while meeting local community demands.

"The fieldhouse — properly constituted — we strongly believe will serve the purpose and attract some competition events in track and field and other sports, soccer and so on."

Not every city can attract every type of sport championship or competition.

But Sigler said Calgary is starting to fall behind other centres in Canada in some categories — even as it maintains a pre-eminent place in the country in terms of winter sports.

"We're probably in the middle somewhere. Calgary's made some very good investments in major sports facilities," said Sigler.

"But there's still a great need at the community level to provide facilities that are easily accessible."

Calgary's falling behind

He points out smaller cities like Kamloops and Kelowna have large indoor sports facilities and Calgary is still waiting for its first true fieldhouse.

"There's a whole lot of events that I think we could be bidding on that we're not," said Sigler, because of the lack of suitable facilities.

Sometimes it's an antiquated facility that needs to be replaced.

For example, if the Corral — which opened in 1950 — were replaced with a similar-sized building, it could draw more events to Calgary.

The report notes "a modern 5,000 to 7,000 seat arena facility would enhance bids for such potential events, including but not limited to: the Davis Cup, the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) World League, Combat Sports, World Hockey Challenge, World Synchronized Skating Championship, World Curling Federation, Basketball World Cup and entertainment events." 

A study done for Sport Calgary by Caminata Consulting found nearly $59 million was spent on amateur sport events in 2016.