Olympic Oval ready for the world

By Erin Shumlich

Aleaky roof at the Olympic Oval created bumps and grooves in the ice which caused unwanted obstacles for speed skaters. Since opening 24 years ago, rainy days meant hazardous conditions at the Oval for skaters who often had to dodge pylons and water buckets.

The Olympic Oval just completed its largest project since opening in 1987 for the 1988 Olympics. The $9.7 million project means skaters will be housed under a leak-free roof.

Oval associate director and two-time Olympic gold medalist Catriona Le May Doan said the construction means that athletes will continue to train at the “number one training facility around the world.”

“We are starting the season and we are a new and improved facility,” she said. “We have a brand new roof and this is truly going to be the home for speed skating where more world champions will be developed.”

The new roof closed the book on all capital submissions over the last seven years said Oval director Kameron Kiland. The Oval refurbishment corrected codes compliance issues, electrical inefficiencies and upgraded timing and refrigeration systems.

“This is a new beginning,” said Kiland. “We are resetting the clock on the world’s best facility when it comes to speed skating. It’s another 20 years of guaranteed home for Speed Skating Canada.”

Le May Doan said the Olympic Oval is the best training facility around the world, not just for speed skaters, but for all athletes. During the project’s unveiling, the Oval was booming with activity — the University of Calgary women’s hockey team practiced on centre ice, short track speed skaters zoomed by and the Chinese national speed skating team jogged around the track.

“This is a facility that is for our entire community,” said Le May Doan. “It seems like just a few months ago we saw many of the athletes in Vancouver win medals and those athletes were training right here. Athletes are training right now and are looking forward to the next Olympics.”

Because of the altitude, the Oval has some of the fastest ice in the world — athletes from around the world flock to it for training.

It’s clear the facility needs to continually stay in prime condition. The refurbishment guarantees the building’s lifespan for another 20 years.

WinSport Canada, which bid on behalf of Calgary to host the Olympic winter games, ensures the continued use of Olympic venues to further develop athletes. WinSport, formally the Calgary Olympic Development Association, provided $9.7 million for the roof refurbishment and will continue to provide $2.4 million annually for the next 20 years for continued maintenance.

“When you walk in these buildings, you recognize that it has provided us the opportunity to continue to develop athletes,” said WinSport Canada’s chief executive officer Dan O’Neill. “If you look around at the activity here every day, you know it’s worth fixing.”

A hundred per cent of the roof was either recycled or re-used for the refurbishment.

“The roof is the final chapter of this book that we now can close.” said Kiland. “We are officially watertight. The Oval is a vital importance for aspiring athletes — they definitely want to come to the Olympic Oval. Athletes are the success and passion of this building.”

The project finished just in time for the speed skating trials starting in mid-September.

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