On Tuesday, September 11, the Calgary2026 Bid Corporation presented their draft vision to Council for what the 2026 Calgary Olympics and Paralympics could look like.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give credit to Calgary2026 under the direction of CEO Mary Moran and the City of Calgary’s Secretariat for the incredible work they have done under very constrained timelines. Whether you are for or against the Olympics, these groups are working incredibly hard for every Calgarian to ensure you will have all the information available in order to make an educated vote in the plebiscite.
Now, to the specifics.
A key feature of the draft plan was a rough funding outline, as well as a draft venue plan. It is important to note that the plan, as proposed, meets the bare requirements for what is needed to host the Games.
Calgary2026 was tasked with creating a plan that first and foremost, considers cost control as a critical priority. At no time will I, or Council, make this a “games at any cost.” Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Calgary2026 proposed to refurbish much of the venues and infrastructure that Calgary already has – the Saddledome for example. It is also worth noting that many Calgarians were rightfully concerned when a large arena was not included in the plan, yet it included the construction of a new 5,000 – 6,000 seat mid-sized arena.
So, what does this mean?
What was proposed was a draft plan – that is very important to remember. During questions by Council, Calgary2026 CEO Mary Moran confirmed that we are a long way, years in fact, from finalizing a venue plan. This is poignant for the committee that I head, the Event Centre Assessment Committee because it gives us the opportunity to also explore a new Event Centre within the context of a potential Calgary bid.
As a cost consideration across civic priorities, would it be cheaper to create a new facility, with two arenas in it: A large, NHL-sized facility, connected to a smaller, 6,000 seat venue? Could this mega-facility, a true Event Centre, meet the principles and criteria of the Event Centre Assessment Committee? This is a conversation worth pursuing – and I can assure you, that conversation is happening.
With that said, I remind everyone that any proposed Event Centre must have legs to stand on its own. Olympics or not, the lack of a modern facility in Calgary deprives us of the economic and social benefit of a thriving entertainment district. Therefore, Olympics or not, I will continue to pursue the options for a new venue for Calgary.
Whether a new facility fits within the context of the Olympics is to be determined; but, the events of this week indicate it is a possibility.