Put a dome on it: Proposal would make artificial turf available at Shouldice year-round

Put a dome on it: Proposal would make artificial turf available at Shouldice year-round

Every sport has its season, but in Calgary, there's a move to extend the life of a piece of turf.

Thanks to better technology and private partnerships, Coun. Ward Sutherland sees an opportunity to put a removable dome over one of the artificial fields at Shouldice Park to extend play into the winter months.

"During the winter, it's tough to find anything you can use indoors," said Sutherland. "Normally, it's just gyms."

A first for Calgary, but Edmonton first

Sutherland said, if it goes forward, this dome would be a Calgary first. But the technology is already being used in Edmonton.

At the University of Alberta's Foote Field, a seasonal dome is used between December and April. The structure inflates over the field protecting the turf from the elements with a heated air-supported structure. That enclosed pitch has a maximum occupancy of 250 people.

According to Sutherland, this type of dome is less expensive upfront than a permanent facility. 

Using rainy day fund

The turf fields at the park were damaged in the 2013 floods, and the fields were restored by May 2016. But the off-season bookings for those fields begins in December and ends at the beginning of April — with no guarantees on availability during that period because of the weather.

But adding an inflatable dome to the field would make it available to football, soccer, rugby and other sports for the rest of the year.

Sutherland is planning to ask colleagues to draw $1 million from the fiscal stability reserve to help pay for the venture. A handful of clubs would help raise the remainder of the $3.4 million.

Funders to get pick of bookings

Those funding groups would get dibs on booking the field but have to pay full price for access like everyone else, according to Sutherland.

With booking revenue, Sutherland said the city's operation of the dome would be paid for.

And he says it's an exciting example of private and public money coming together to help improve sports facilities in Calgary.

In Ward 5, Coun. George Chahal has a similar request. He's hoping the city will help build an artificial field by the Genesis centre, drawing $2 million from the so-called rainy day fund and asking for private funds to complete the northeast project.

Sutherland hopes the field in northwest Calgary could be ready for the Grey Cup in Calgary next year.