Organizers of the 2014 Alberta Winter Games have proposed construction of a new skating oval at Millennium Park that could host long track speed skating events, have year-round potential for indoor soccer/tennis and provide a lasting Games legacy.
Hans Holthuis and John McIsaac made a presentation to Canmore council on Jan. 15 to outline their idea of a 400-metre outdoor skating oval for the Winter Games taking place in Banff and Canmore.
The original location identified, the Canmore Golf and Curling Club, is now officially off the table after organizers discovered a significant amount of earthworks would be needed to complete the project. It was also noted melting ice would have a negative impact on the club’s grass as well.
In a speech to council, Holthuis pointed out that currently there is no location to hold the Games’ long track skating events and the intent with this new proposal is not only to fill that void, but also “leave a lasting legacy for both communities.”
Located just east of the baseball diamond at Millennium Park, the project outline includes clearing, levelling and filling to grade an area that would fit a 400 m skating oval in winter and 400 m running track in summer.
Once the games are complete, the oval would remain available in winter as a public skating site and would also hold two international-sized ice surfaces inside the oval. For summer, a running track could be installed on the oval surface while the interior area could accommodate soccer fields or tennis courts.
If a proposed dome was to be installed inside the oval in the future, there would be year-round uses for soccer, tennis, pickleball or other field sports, the presentation noted.
Holthuis indicated the Alberta Winter Games Society would cover capital costs for construction of the oval, as grant funding of up to $250,000 is available.
“There’s an untapped demand for unimpeded skating,” he said. “The legacy facility will satisfy the untapped demand. The oval will draw local use and from millions of visitors.”
For the selection process, organizers looked at 22 different locations within the Bow Valley to install a permanent surface and ended up with Millennium Park as first choice due to its relatively flat surface.
Holthuis and McIsac, did though, provide two alternate locations in their presentation: the soccer field and ball diamond next to Our Lady of the Snows Catholic School and the old day care site that is currently up for review.
Regarding fields at the catholic school, organizers explained the town never took possession of the land and due to its location it is currently in receivership and managed by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The site where the old day care is located was recently discussed at a public engagement meeting where most residents insisted it be kept as a green space while still maintaining the outdoor rink that is also present on that piece of land.
Millennium was presented as the ideal site.
“We have a one-time opportunity to bring something to the valley that’s never been seen here before,” McIsaac said. “We have the ability to make this happen. The funds are in place and the community is engaged.”
Regarding some of the potential challenges for this project, organizers said they will be looking to hold formal public consultations with residents, address the various impacts on wildlife as well as the number of trees that would potentially have to be removed.
Following a question from Councillor Vi Sandford surrounding the project entering into a habitat patch, Holthuis said the oval could be placed where the ball diamond within Millennium Park is currently located.
The ball diamond is lightly used, he said.
It was also noted that the central part of the skating oval does not necessarily need to be filled as it would cut down on some construction costs, however, organizers did indicate they would like to see a games fundraiser involving the planting of new trees if some were to be removed.
Mayor John Borrowman said the proposal would now go to the Town’s administration to deliver a report back to council.
“I anticipate a fulsome report from administration as soon as possible,” Borrowman said. “When the community understands more about the winter games they will be excited. I’m particularly looking forward to working with the Town of Banff.”