RE­CRE­ATION CEN­TRES OF­FER­ING A NEW VER­SION OF HIS­TORIC TOWN SQUARES

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - New Condos - RICHARD WHITE

With the open­ing of the 330,000-square-foot Brook­field Res­i­den­tial YMCA at Se­ton, Cal­gary now boasts the largest and sec­ond-largest YMCAS in the world. Yes, the world. The sec­ond largest is also in Cal­gary: Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge, which opened a year ago.

Both are more than just a YMCA, they serve as mega com­mu­nity cen­tres.

RE­CRE­ATION: THE NEW RE­LI­GION?

In my opin­ion, re­cre­ation ameni­ties are the key to cre­at­ing suc­cess­ful com­mu­ni­ties to­day. More so than a gro­cery store, re­tail or restau­rants. Why? Be­cause in Cal­gary, re­cre­ation plays the big­gest role in our ev­ery­day lives. Most fam­i­lies have their kids in two or three recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties at any given time, and week­ends are spent at one or more re­cre­ation cen­tre. Sin­gles and young cou­ples love to go to the gym, swim, or par­tic­i­pate in a yoga or spin class sev­eral times a week. It is al­most like fit­ness is the new re­li­gion.

My par­ents’ and grand­par­ent’s gen­er­a­tion never went to a gym, but nearly all of my friends 55-plus years of age are ac­tively en­gaged in recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties sev­eral times a week. As for gro­cery shop­ping, we fit that in once or twice a week of­ten on the way to or from recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties.

RE­CRE­ATION CEN­TRE: THE NEW CATHE­DRAL

It is no co­in­ci­dence the nam­ing spon­sor for many of Cal­gary’s new sub­ur­ban YMCAS are real-es­tate de­vel­op­ers or new home builders, as they re­al­ize the re­cre­ation cen­tre is to Cal­gary’s sub­ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties what the cathe­dral and his­toric town square is to Euro­pean city cen­tres. It is the gath­er­ing place for al­most ev­ery­one liv­ing in the sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties. And like the Euro­pean cathe­dral, the new cen­tres are also ar­chi­tec­tural won­ders.

When I chat with sub­ur­ban de­vel­op­ers about ur­ban de­vel­op­ment is­sues and trends they of­ten re­mind me they are not in the busi­ness of build­ing homes, but de­vel­op­ing com­mu­ni­ties. While hav­ing a park, play­ground and path­ways used to be suf­fi­cient for cre­at­ing new com­mu­ni­ties, hav­ing a mega multi-use re­cre­ation cen­tre is a must to­day.

In fact, I am sur­prised Cal­gary’s new in­ner-city com­mu­ni­ties — Currie, East Vil­lage and Univer­sity Dis­trict — don’t have a bou­tique re­cre­ation cen­tre as part of their mas­ter plans.

NOT A NEW IDEA

In­deed, Cal­gary’s new home builders have a long his­tory with spon­sor­ing com­mu­nity re­cre­ation cen­tres. The Trico Cen­tre opened in 1983 as the Fam­ily Leisure Cen­tre (they were called leisure cen­tres back then), and was called that un­til 2008 when Trico Homes pur­chased the nam­ing rights for $1.5 mil­lion. To­day, the 150,000-square-foot build­ing at­tracts more than 1 mil­lion vis­i­tors per year.

Back­story: The orig­i­nal build­ing cost only $9.4 mil­lion dol­lars (there are sin­gle-fam­ily homes that cost more to­day), but the 2010 ad­di­tion of a new arena and other ren­o­va­tions cost $17.2 mil­lion. The Fish Creek Park Li­brary sits next door and South­cen­tre Mall is across the street, cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity hub.

The South Fish Creek Com­plex, which opened in phases be­gin­ning in 2001, com­bines the Bishop O’byrne High School, Shaw­nessy YMCA, Shaw­nessy Li­brary, Chi­nook Learn­ing Cen­tre and South Fish Creek Re­cre­ation As­so­ci­a­tion. Then in 2015, the as­so­ci­a­tion en­tered into a 10-year nam­ing rights part­ner­ship with Cardel Homes, be­com­ing Cardel Rec South.

Cardel Place opened in 2004 in north-cen­tral Cal­gary and quickly be­come the heart and soul of Cal­gar­i­ans liv­ing in the city’s north cen­tral sub­urbs. Af­ter the 10-year nam­ing re­la­tion­ship with Cardel Homes ex­pired, both par­ties am­i­ca­bly agreed it was time for a new name. As a not-for­profit com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity, it was de­cided the new name needed to re­flect its new vi­sion of “rais­ing health­ier gen­er­a­tions.”

“Vivo,” a Latin word mean­ing “with life and vigour,” was cho­sen with the sub­text “for health­ier gen­er­a­tions.”

In the north­east, the Ge­n­e­sis Cen­tre opened in 2012 and quickly be­came the “liv­ing room” for more than one mil­lion vis­i­tors each year from Cal­gary’s north­east com­mu­ni­ties. Ge­n­e­sis Land Corp. con­trib­uted $5 mil­lion for the nam­ing rights as part of the com­mu­nity’s $40-mil­lion fundrais­ing cam­paign for the $120 mil­lion, 250,000-square­foot build­ing.

An­other slightly more mod­est 94,000-square-foot Rem­ing­ton YMCA in Quarry Park opened in Septem­ber 2016. FYI: Rem­ing­ton De­vel­op­ment is re­spon­si­ble for the am­bi­tious vi­sion of con­vert­ing a gravel pit into a new mas­ter-planned, mixeduse ur­ban com­mu­nity that in­te­grates a ma­jor em­ploy­ment dis­trict (Im­pe­rial Oil moved its head of­fice there in 2014) with a re­tail/recre­ational dis­trict and a res­i­den­tial dis­trict with a mix of sin­gle-fam­ily and multi-fam­ily homes.

I am sur­prised a new home builder hasn’t at­tached its name to the West­side Re­cre­ation Cen­tre, which opened in 2000 and 10 years later com­pleted a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion.

LAST WORD

In the mid-20th cen­tury, sep­a­rate build­ings for are­nas, in­door pools and other recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties were scat­tered around the city, rather than cen­tral­ized. And de­vel­op­ers were busy build­ing lakes and golf cour­ses as the recre­ational ameni­ties to at­tract home buy­ers.

To­day, there has been a par­a­digm shift to cre­at­ing mega, in­te­grated multi-user com­mu­nity cen­tres that in­clude not only an in­door arena with a cou­ple of sheets of ice, but per­haps a curl­ing rink, a cou­ple of gyms, a pool with sep­a­rate ar­eas for fam­i­lies and lane pool swim­mers, as well as a pub­lic li­brary, art, dance, mar­tial arts and yoga stu­dios and meet­ing rooms.

As one friend said to me re­cently, “We’ve come a long way from the neigh­bour­hood out­door skat­ing rinks and pools with per­haps a small build­ing as a change room.” Oth­ers have asked, “Is this a good thing?”

To­day, the city and de­vel­op­ers are think­ing about com­mu­nity not as in­di­vid­ual neigh­bour­hoods based on sub­di­vi­sions or even quad­rants, but rather as dis­tricts based on log­i­cal bound­aries like ma­jor roads, tran­sit routes and ge­o­graphic fea­tures.

As Bob Dy­lan said in 1964, “For the times they are a-changin’.”

PHO­TOS: LEAH HENNEL

Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge, above, which opened a year ago, is the sec­ond largest YMCA in the world be­hind the 330,000-square-foot Brook­field Res­i­den­tial YMCA at Se­ton. Of­fer­ing a plethora of ameni­ties, these mega cen­tres are pop­u­lar com­mu­nity fea­tures.

GAVIN YOUNG

The Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge is the sec­ond-largest YMCA in the world. It has its of­fi­cial open­ing on Feb. 1, 2018. The new cen­tre fea­tures im­pres­sive ar­chi­tec­ture and plenty of ac­tiv­i­ties.

Brook­field Res­i­den­tial CEO Trent Ed­wards and YMCA Cal­gary pres­i­dent and CEO Shan­non Do­ram an­nounce the new YMCA at Se­ton in 2018.

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