Public feedback uncovers Calgarians’ aspirations for city’s newest civic facility
CMLC has completed and compiled results from a comprehensive public engagement process for Calgary’s new Event Centre. In September 2019, the Event Centre Assessment Committee gave CMLC the go-ahead to carry out the Event Centre Engagement Strategy—a process to solicit ideas and input from Calgarians on their expectations for the visitor experience and the programming offered in and around the new facility.
We carried out this engagement work between January 29 and March 27 through three distinct phases, each aimed at connecting with Calgarians in order to understand what matters most for them as the new facility begins to take shape. The feedback we’ve received will help guide project planning and inform the facility’s design and programming throughout its four-year development.
In total, CMLC interacted with 1,977 community members at 23 in-person events, collected feedback from 14,549 citizens through an online survey, and conducted five roundtable discussions with representatives from 22 local community organizations.
“Public engagement is imperative to the success of Calgary’s new Event Centre and the insights we’ve gathered over the past few months will guide the design of the facility and the programming within the building itself and in the community spaces surrounding it,” says Kate Thompson, CMLC President & CEO. “By understanding how users expect to experience the facility, we can ensure that its development reflects public needs and interests.”
The public survey sought to understand what the Event Centre will mean to Calgarians, the lessons learned over the lifespan of the existing Saddledome, the anticipated differences between business and pleasure use, and people’s hopes for the new facility’s features and programming. The roundtable discussions delved further into these topics through open-ended dialogue with community members and organizations.
The three primary themes emerging from the public feedback were pride, variety, and connections. Findings showed that Calgarians anticipate the Event Centre will generate growth, further activate and showcase east Victoria Park as Calgary’s Culture & Entertainment District and give Calgary a world-class facility to be proud of.
The most consistent expectation of respondents is that the Event Centre will enable the city to host high-calibre concerts and sporting events. Additionally, they expect the space to provide variety, excitement, and a sense of celebration, serving as a year-round draw for locals and tourists alike. Calgarians also expect the Event Centre to provide opportunities for them to connect with one another, and they see it as an important civic gathering place with direct connections to district amenities—current and future—such as the Elbow River, the expanded BMO Centre and the growing and vibrant Rivers District around it.
“The insights we’ve uncovered are foundational to beginning the design work on the Event Centre. As the project unfolds, we will continue to engage with stakeholders and user groups in meaningful ways. Public feedback and health and safety concerns will continue to figure prominently as we plan the facility’s retail development and work on a wider, district-level safety and security plan. All this work is vital to ensuring the building reflects community aspirations, espouses public health and safety requirements, and successfully integrates into Calgary’s Culture & Entertainment District,” says Thompson.
While the engagement program wrapped up before the impacts of COVID-19 were fully felt or known, the approach to the Event Centre’s design will be continually reassessed to ensure the design and programming meet longer-term health and safety requirements.
Event Centre construction is set to begin in 2021 with completion anticipated in 2024.