RECREATION CENTRES OFFERING A NEW VERSION OF HISTORIC TOWN SQUARES
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.
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’.”
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.
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.