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WinSport calling for significant boost in funding to update aging facilities

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WinSport is looking for a significant investment into its aging facilities. As Ina Sidhu reports, it’s asking Ottawa for $300 million to refurbish Canada Olympic Park. – Mar 29, 2022

WinSport is pushing government for more funding to help revitalize some of its aging facilities, and is also calling on the City of Calgary to include active living and sport into its branding.

Officials at WinSport, which owns and operates Canada Olympic Park, said some of their facilities could be lost if significant work isn’t undertaken to refurbish some of their aging structures.

“They are end of life,” WinSport executive director of sport Jennifer Konopaki said. “The facilities and infrastructure at WinSport (have) well surpassed (their) expected lifespan from the (1988 Winter Olympic Games) and we’re at a point that without significant investment and financial contributions, we can longer exist the way we have historically.”

Read more: Calgary wants to be a hub city as Canada loses international sports to COVID-19

In 2019, the facility was forced to close the bobsleigh, skeleton and luge track as it continued to search for funding to upgrade the Olympic track.

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According to Konopaki, the day lodge, infrastructure on the ski hill and the Markin MacPhail Centre all require lifecycle repairs and maintenance.

Officials estimate $300 million is needed to renovate and enhance the facilities, as well as to top up WinSport’s investment fund to keep the facilities operational.

Konopaki said any further issues with its facilities could result in impacts to sports in Calgary from the recreational to the professional levels.

“Without the incredible training facilities and competition opportunities through the world cups, it can make or break the lifeline of a number of our Olympic sports and their training opportunities,” Konopaki said.

When asked about the facility situation at WinSport during a visit by local Olympians at city hall on Tuesday, chef de mission for Team Canada at the Beijing 2022 Winter Games Catriona Le May Doan said the city should be working to break down barriers for young people inspired in competing.

“Whether it’s cost, whether it’s upgrades of facilities, whether it’s actually programming, building coaches, officials — we need to build a new generation of volunteers.” Le May Doan said. “We need the events here that will inspire our communities.”

Read more: Canadian athletes concerned over what’s to come for Calgary sliding track

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Calgary’s mayor said she has written a letter of support to the federal government advocating on behalf of WinSport for the required funding.

“That’s something that I sent to Deputy Prime Minister (Chrystia) Freeland quite some time ago,” Jyoti Gondek said. “We’re hoping that they follow through on their commitment to ensuring that Calgarians’ lives are well served by sport.”

WinSport and a group of local sport organizations are also advocating to have sport and active living be central to the city’s brand, as the city undergoes consultation to update its current branding.

“I think this is a huge opportunity for the city to recognize the economic contributor of sport and active living, and make sure it’s the centre of that brand and promote healthy citizens,” Konopaki said. “That would be a shame to not see that opportunity seized.”

According to WinSport, the facilities welcome over 1.2 million guests, generate $120 million in economic activity and 1,200 jobs in Calgary in a typical year.

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