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Canmore Nordic Centre to receive $17.5 million for infrastructure repairs, upgrades

Kananaskis pass money helping fund $17.5 million in upgrades to the Canmore Nordic Centre over the next two years.

CANMORE – More details were revealed on the level of funding the Canmore Nordic Centre will be receiving for much needed infrastructure repairs for the aging facility.

The centre will have $17.5 million sent its way over the next two years to help replace the biathlon building, the stadium and refresh infrastructure such as helping with snow-making capabilities and storage capacity.

“It has a huge impact on our community. It has a huge impact on the events we host and the tourism dollars that it drives,” said Ken Davies, the chair of the Canmore Biathlon World Cups.

“Those are real. Those are very real,” he added of the tourism impact on the valley. “This is also for all of Albertans. I would argue for all Canadians. … Wintertime it’s used all the time by all Albertans who participate in Nordic sport. It’s 365 days a year this venue is hosting everyday Albertans and everyday Canadians from all over the world.”

The announcement came on the final day of the Masters World Cup being held at the centre, which has featured more than 700 skiers from 18 different countries.

Norbert Meier, the event's chair for the Alberta World Cup Society, added the investment will help the facility continue to bring World Cups to the region and be considered a “world class facility”.

“Hosting World Cups is about many things. The economic and tourism benefits are well-known and its obvious World Cup events are good business,” he said. “This investment will keep those benefits accruing in the future years to Canmore, the Bow Valley and Alberta.”

The money comes after several years of advocating for the repairs when a feasibility study in 2018 emphasized the need to complete upgrades to the tune of about $10 million.

The money had been part of the last NDP government’s capital priority list for two years, but the funding never came through.

The facility had previously requested $13 million from the UCP provincial government, but when it didn’t come in 2019 the centre lost its ability to host international biathlon events due to facility improvements being needed to continue to keep its A-license from the International Biathlon Union (IBU).

Premier Jason Kenney said a primary reason the funding became available was from money collected in the Kananaskis Country conservation pass, which has brought in about $12 million to provincial coffers.

“Kananaskis is a part of our province’s heritage and identity,” he said. “That’s why the K-pass is so critical. It ensures we can protect and upgrade and maintain this natural wonder.”

Jason Nixon, the Minister of Environment and Parks, said the project had been “a long time in the making”, but that he had been passionately advocated by Banff-Kananaskis MLA Miranda Rosin, Ken Davies and Norbert Meier for the finances to move forward with upgrades.

Rosin said Davies and Meier have “been fiercely tireless advocates” in the funding eventually arriving for the centre.

An economic impact assessment completed in 2016 showed more than 16,000 spectators visited the centre for the Alberta portion of Ski Tour Canada. The assessment stated it contributed $6.8 million in economic activity for the community.

The Nordic centre features two national teams – Biathlon Canada and Nordiq Canada – and has several Olympians and Paralympians train at the facility that was built for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Alberta Alpine is also based out of the facility.

“Alberta’s investment in Canmore Nordic Centre upgrades is well-placed and appreciated. The Nordic centre plays an iconic role for sport in Canmore and, in both winter and summer, has a huge beneficial impact on residents, visitors and athletes from all over the world,” Canmore Mayor Sean Krausert said.

The construction, however, will likely see some impacts on using aspects of the centre though it’s yet to be determined and won’t be until contracts are awarded how much it may be.

Davies noted they will be working with local user groups to minimize any impacts construction may have for use of the facility.

Michael Roycroft, the regional director for Kananaskis Country Region, said they will be going to tender later this month and are anticipating work to begin in the spring or summer. The bulk of the work will be in the biathlon stadium and running until an expected end date of early 2024.

The targets, Roycroft said, are to have it ready for the IBU World Cup and International Ski Federation (FIS) Ski World Cup in 2024.

“The stadium is so critical to hosting the World Cups. Without the stadium expansion, essentially we wouldn’t be able to host the World Cups. That’s the first priority to make sure we get the stadium widened and available.”

The release also highlighted that 90 jobs will be supported by the work, with engineers, labourers, electricians, plumbers and other skilled trades needed to complete the upgrades.

“The overall impact of having an event hosting facility where we can host international events in both the summer and winter that will have long-term economic and job impacts, not just direct, but also for the local service economy, restaurants, hotels.”

Roycroft called the centre a “jewel” in the park system and the Town of Canmore, with advocacy efforts happening over the last decade.

“Having this upgrade really establishes the Nordic centre as the premier Nordic facility in North America and one of the best in the world.”

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