Winsport Canada

Uniting the nation's winter sport heroes

Drop the puck. That will soon be the message at WinSport Canada’s new Athletic and Ice Complex (AIC), a creation that is more than your standard hockey arena; it is an entire winter sport institute.

A not-for-profit organization committed to Canadian winter sport development programs, WinSport stems from the original Calgary Olympic Development Association, established in 1965. As such, the new AIC is a revitalization of Canada Olympic Park, which played host to the 1998 Winter Olympics held in Calgary. Those facilities, supported by an endowment fund, differ from the new complex upgrade, which included Alberta-based Cana Construction as the main contractor, with an emphasis on building for sustainability.

The anchor tenant to the facility, Hockey Canada, required two rinks, but with WinSport’s own business research showing that a quad-pad would be more efficient from an operational standpoint, notably due to one main refrigeration plant, the decision was made to construct three North American pads, measuring 200 feet by 85 feet, and one international-sized pad, at 200 feet by 100 feet. The international rink can be configured to either North American or international size, while also supporting a seating capacity up to 3,000.

Numbers game

Looking at the specs, the project also includes an office tower of about 100,000 square feet and an 80,000 square foot centre for high performance sports development that includes workout space, massage therapy, sport research and sport medicine. The facility also includes a conference centre, with five meeting rooms looking out to the big rink, like a private suite.

And while a 100,000 square foot office tower may seem overwhelming, it not only meets the current space needs, but it will be constructed to future proof it so the organization can continue to grow, according to Jim Younker, Chief Operating Officer with WinSport Canada.

There is also an outdoor plaza for medal ceremonies that fronts Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, also under construction and set to open in July 2011. The three North American rinks will open in December, with the big rink and office tower opening in September 2011. The facility will play host to the selection camp for the 2012 World Junior Championship to be held in Calgary and Edmonton.

“The high performance fitness area will hopefully attract all the best clinicians and doctors and put them in a situation where they can make a living but also be accessible to the athletes who need them and do not necessarily have the funding,” said Younker, adding that the facility, with its linkages to the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University, allows students to train under the best, bringing together a lot of services.

Project funding

The AIC will serve as the new home for Hockey Canada, an organization which formerly relied on the federal government for 55 per cent of its annual funding prior to its shift to Calgary. The government now contributes less than six per cent to the organization’s budget.

Originally committing to the project in 2007, the goal was to have Hockey Canada do training in the new facility prior to 2010, but that wasn’t achieved. According to Younker, the project broke ground in 2008 and then “the world fell of a cliff” funding was harder to come by, though it was eventually seen through a $69 million commitment from the Government of Alberta, $49 million from the federal government and $20 million from the City of Calgary, building on WinSport’s own capital campaign.

“While we’re a little behind our original schedule, we feel this is a facility that will help us produce athletes for 2014, 2018 and 2022. Our original approved budget for this complex was $252 million and our latest update is a projected cost of $214 million, so that has worked in our favour,” said Younker, emphasizing a $6 million contingency and totaling to about a 20 per cent reduction from the original cost.
Despite the challenges of getting the project fully funded, WinSport has stayed true to its vision and hasn’t swayed from its original design or made any compromises, ensuring that its project is world class and future proof.

Environmental certification program

According to Younker, an audit for LEED Silver designation is considered very good for a rink complex, with project initiatives including the use of recycled products, controlled waste, passive solar through special glass and smart technologies through sensors reading incoming natural light, then adjusting the lighting fixtures accordingly, high efficiency lighting, with hot air under the seats to heat the spectators and ultimately reduce fan usage, and so on.

Technological advancement

WinSport’s multimedia consultants have allowed for far-reaching technology of video for hockey coaches to teach young players what they have done right and where improvement is needed. That technology can then be copied to a take-home DVD. Another new development is the ability to watch live streaming action online.

“So many robust IT things are being incorporated, allowing things like simulcasts of Hockey Canada doing a press conference, to [Edmonton Oilers head coach] Tom Renney doing a practice here with minor hockey players, with coaches throughout the country logging on to the website and watching it live and learning about best practices,” added Younker. “There is a lot of interesting technology involved in this project.”

The goal is to provide the required facilities for Canada to be the No. 1 winter sport nation in the world.

“We feel that in Vancouver we came pretty darn close to that, if not the No. 1, and then with the number of medals we won,” said Younker. “When we first hosted the [Olympic] Games back in 1988, Canada won five medal and now in Vancouver we won 26 so we feel the legacy of 1988 continues on and that we will get nothing but stronger as we create this facility of winter sports excellence.”