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Public engagement report released for Calgary’s new event centre

Calgary City Hall fall 2017
Calgary city hall pictured in fall 2017. Dani Lantela / Global News/File

A significant number of Calgarians chose to make their voices heard on the city’s new event centre.

The public engagement process began in January and wrapped up at the end of March amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 15,000 people took part in online surveys and another 2,000 residents were involved in in-person sessions before gathering restrictions came into place.

On Friday, results of the public’s engagement for the centre were shared with members of Calgary city council’s Event Centre Assessment committee.

Officials noted the primary themes found from public input include: creating a place of gathering and connection to create civic pride, diversity of programming inside and outside of the new facility, a range of retail opportunities and designing an arena with aesthetics that integrate with the community around it.

Read more: Calgary sets timelines, announces design, construction firms for new event centre

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“It aligns with what we’ve planned for the master plan for that area,” president of Calgary Municipal Land Corporation Kate Thompson said.

“For me, I’m looking forward to seeing how that embodies itself in this Event Centre and what that means,” she added.

“The feedback was probably more plentiful than I thought, which is a great thing and also really thoughtful. Calgarians have great expectations for this building as do we.”

CMLC has been tasked with designing a cultural and entertainment district for the area, and Thompson noted the engagement is just the first step in the process.

“It’s not just about creating a brick and mortar space where work completes and we walk away,” she said. “I think it extends all the way to this engagement report.

“This is a first step in understanding what the community really wants and how we can listen.”

Deal finalized for new Calgary event centre
Deal finalized for new Calgary event centre

Members of the committee also stressed that after three days of anti-racism hearings, there needs to be consideration of an inclusive and welcoming area.

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“I would just encourage you, as you are continuing with the design mandate, that this place isn’t just for hockey and expensive concerts,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi said.

“It has to be a place with events that are accessible to the community.”

Councillor Ward Sutherland says he envisions an area where public festivals could be held to take the pressure off some of the city parks.

Read more: Dollars and civic pride: economists weigh in on proposed Calgary arena deal

Ward 6 Coun. Jeff Davison is chair of the Events Centre Assessment committee and added that he’d like to see quick action when it comes to ideas around what goes in the cultural and entertainment district next to the new arena.

“I don’t want to be sitting around and waiting until 2025 when this building is up and standing out of the ground to then think about how we program the area,: Davison said.

“We know that we are going to develop the entertainment and cultural district, and the city’s mandate right now is to really involve all levels of multiculturalism.”

Friday’s meeting was the final stage of the city hall committee’s involvement. Now, a steering committee comprised of city, CMLC and Calgary Sports and Entertainment representatives will oversee the project.

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“Design is not council’s expertise,” Davison said.

“If you think about processes we’ve gone through in the past, much like with the new central library… this is really about leveraging build expertise and project management expertise — and that’s not council’s position.”

Construction of the Event Centre will begin in 2021 with completion set for May 2024.