CALGARY - WinSport Canada is planning a huge retail/commercial development at Canada Olympic Park that would include a grocery store, retail stores, restaurants and two hotels, the Herald has learned. The proposed development, subject to city approval, would be about 400,000 square feet. Retail stores would be geared to promoting healthy, active lifestyles and the hotels would accommodate 300 rooms - one family-based and a larger one with a spa and conference centre. The proposal is currently before the City of Calgary. It includes the sale of about 22 hectares of land to a developer. The proposal is geared to complement current use at Canada Olympic Park, raise capital for the facility and create an ongoing cash flow. Dan O'Neill, president and chief executive of WinSport, said "we're on a very clear mission to become unique to the world." "We want to have a national sports institute here," he said. "And that includes a high school. We want to be able to service all the winter sports. "When we were giving the guidelines to the potential purchasers, we wanted these things to complement what we're offering." The proposal will be before the Calgary Planning Commission in late March or early April. Contingent on city approval, WinSport would like to start servicing work this summer and perhaps start construction in early 2012 with opening some parts of the project by 2013. Jim Younker, chief operating officer of WinSport, said the process started in the 1990s when WinSport had accumulated these lands with a Master Plan done in 2000 which led to an Area Structure Plan in 2005. "The biggest change in the Area Structure Plan and why we're seeking an amendment there's two issues. One is refining the areas that are developable and the second is the actual land uses," he said. "And in large part the land uses are dictated by the market. "We spent a fair amount of time pursuing opportunities to develop more of an employment area, which basically the city defines as office ... But after the crash of 2008 and the current state of the office market, there just simply is no demand for office in this area and we commissioned an independent report and it identified that not only is there no market now but there's unlikely to be demand for office in this area for 10-15 years." Younker said the development of the land will help WinSport create the national winter sport institute on the site. About 22 hectares of land just off the TransCanada Highway and Sarcee Trail will be sold to develop the site. He said there is about 178 hectares of land at Canada Olympic Park of which about 66 hectares is being given to the city for a park, which would be directly south of the proposed commercial development. Younker said about 12 per cent of the land there is proposed for commercial development. Also, the city has an interchange planned for the intersection at Bowfort Road and the TransCanada Highway. "We've been entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining these Olympic facilities up to speed so the athletes continue to train," said O'Neill. Younker said WinSport is working on an arrangement to sell that land which is subject to getting all the approvals and servicing in place. "We went to the market through Brookfield Financial who's our real estate consultants. Basically solicited offers on these lands and proposals on how they'd be developed and interestingly enough we received 13 proposals which we were amazed. We were able to narrow that down to six then three then our final choice which we're negotiating with now," said Younker. "Every offer came in for hotel/retail. We didn't get a single company expressing any interest in office. The developer, we're working with now, we're working on incorporating some office into the plan. What we want to accomplish with this is three things. We need capital. So that's motivating us. We also want to make Canada Olympic Park a bigger draw. So hotels, restaurants, those sorts of things are strategic to us. They fit very well with the other things we're developing here. We want an ongoing cash flow. All of these things are going to help us be sustainable." An open house is scheduled for Tues. Feb. 22 between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Festival Tent at Canada Olympic Park to discuss the new Master Plan and amendment to the current Area Structure Plan. "The proposed shopping and dining amenities of this project are welcome news for residents in this under-served quadrant of the city," said Michael Kehoe, an Alberta-based retail specialist with Fairfield Commercial Real Estate Inc. "Retailers and food service tenants seeking locations on the west side are sure to demonstrate high levels of interest even though the project is two to three years into the future. "The mixed-use nature of the proposed development that includes the hotels, restaurants and lifestyle-oriented retailers will be well-suited to the trade area and tourist traffic." Recently, WinSport Canada unveiled its new athletic and ice complex with the opening of three North American size rinks at the 500,000-square-foot facility. Once completed the facility will also include a 3,000-seat international ice rink and a high-performance training centre. That project includes a five-storey office tower of about 100,000 square feet. Dan Harmsen, vice-president and associate broker of Barclay Street Real Estate Ltd., said about 30,000 square feet of that tower will be occupied by WinSport, Hockey Canada and other non-profit sports groups and about 70,000 square feet is available for lease. The office tower will be available for occupancy this fall, he said.
Printed in Calgary Herald.