Largest sports complex on southern Alberta First Nation nears completion

The 228,000-square-foot Seven Chiefs Sportsplex and Chief Jim Starlight Centre is 90 per cent complete and expected to open by May.

Chief Jim Starlight Centre on the Tsuut’ina Nation will be a 228,000-square-foot sportsplex

Construction is about 90 per cent complete on the Chief Jim Starlight Centre on the Tsuut'ina First Nation. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

Construction workers are building, painting, drilling and making adjustments throughout the newest facility on the Tsuut'ina Nation — the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex and Chief Jim Starlight Centre.

The 228,000-square-foot sportsplex is 90 per cent complete.

Along with two NHL-sized ice rinks, the facility will feature a covered outdoor rink, along with a fitness centre, dance studio, running track, concession, office space and conference rooms.

The building is named after Chief Jim Starlight, who served in leadership from 1952 until 1966.

Leeroy Meguinis said the community voted in favour of the name for the new facility.

"It gives us so much variety of what kind of events we want to host in there or what kind of events we want to do in there," said the Tsuut'ina council member, who heads the new development.

Leeroy Meguinis is a council member for Tsuut’ina First Nation leadership and is head of the new development. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

The biggest feature in the new facility is the fieldhouse, which is designed to host special events and has seating capacity for more than 5,000 spectators.

"We haven't had a facility for the last five years, and previous chief Roy Whitney and council came up with the idea to invest in a facility like this," said Meguinis.

"Credit goes to previous chief Roy Whitney and council along with current Chief Lee Crowchild and council."

Once open, the building will create 26 jobs, which could increase to 36.

Brad Wengzynowski is the project manager for Krawford Construction and a long-time partner with Tsuut’ina Nation’s developments. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

Krawford Construction has been hired to build the new development and the company has been a long-standing friend to the Nation, says Meguinis.

The project has been ongoing for the past two years.

Project manager Brad Wengzynowski has overseen some of the Nation's recent developments including the new sportsplex.

"The development and the process and design of the Tsuut'ina sportplex was very unique and we wanted to have a very nice large facility," he said.

The Nation was part of the design process for the centre, said Wengzynowski.

"One of the elements the design team did is we have a lot of elements of natural light, and borrow light from outside," he said.

"So almost every spot inside the facility, you have a sense of the outdoors."

Brenden Crane says the future is bright for the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex & Chief Jim Starlight Centre. (Livia Manywounds/CBC)

Brenden Crane, a manager for Tsuu'tina Capital Projects, says the goal is to have the building open by May.

"I'm sure the community is excited, it's been a long road and a lot of challenges we faced but that's what project management is and that's what comes with it," he said.

"In the design phase, one of our visions was to capture the big events we can host here."

Marketing of the new centre will look to capture a vision that is not around Calgary, and do it with a "wow factor," said Crane.

Arena one will have a seating capacity of 2,000, and twin arena two will have a capacity of 300.

"One of the special features of the building is the half-size outdoor rink and [being] able to utilize the old refrigeration plant from the old Seven Chiefs sportsplex," said Crane.

"The future of the sportsplex is bright and we can see this building being booked up every year. This isn't a building you see in every city and First Nation."

About the Author

Livia Manywounds is a reporter with the CBC in Calgary, a rodeo competitor and a proud member of the Tsuut’ina First Nation.