Bowness Playing Fields Development

The Cause

The Calgary Chieftains Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Club, in cooperation with the Calgary Kangaroos Australian Rules Football Club, the Calgary Kookaburras Women’s Australian Rules Football Club and River Valley School, propose to invest in upgrading the fields at the River Valley School, 33rd Ave NW Campus. We wish to upgrade the current poor quality field surface adjacent to the school and re-purpose the site into a multi-sport and Australian rules and Gaelic sports designated facility. This would involve removing the current overgrown baseball diamonds with accompanying red shale area and two underused poor quality soccer pitches. We intend to lay fresh sod and install portable sport-specific goal posts to form one full size GAA field and two training playing fields, that will make best use of space and incorporate one full size Australian rules football oval playing field (planned layout attached).

The Calgary Chieftains club was formed by a small group of Irish immigrants in 1977; this year marks the celebration of its 40-year anniversary. More than ever, we are dedicated to our mission to grow and integrate Gaelic games in the Calgary community and wider Alberta area. We provide an opportunity for members of the community to try a new sport, while promoting physical activity and well being through team sport participation and interaction with people from a variety of different backgrounds. Our longstanding partnership with Australian football has benefitted both clubs through sharing of ideas, players, facilities and social events in the past. An upgrade to this facility aims to provide a high quality, multi-use, field space with guaranteed users that will optimize performance standards in these sports and host local, inter-provincial and international games. There is currently no other facility of its kind in Canada. Our clubs currently use various field locations around the city, none of which are regulation size and all of which pose safety concerns with structures and other obstacles in close proximity. This often results in a combination of long travel distances, restricted playing time and poor time slots. It has not been unusual for some parents to have a 60km round trip in the depths of a Calgary winter night to get their kids to training which has a marked effect on participation rates.

Who Will it Benefit?

This development aims to address, not only the needs of players of Gaelic and Australian sports, but also the students, families and residents in Bowness and the wider community.

The population of Calgary claiming Irish ancestry has grown to 15.3% (Calgary Census, 2011). By providing a central hub for Irish immigrants, along with second and third generation Irish, we anticipate a huge uptake in Gaelic games in Calgary with the provision of this development. GAA is comprised of four codes; men’s and ladies Gaelic Football, Hurling and Camogie. With our newly formed juvenile section, the club has provided support for 200+ members aged 4 years and over. With the inclusion of members from Calgary Kangaroos and Kookaburras clubs, this project is estimated to directly benefit 500+ people. This does include the numerous national and international clubs that will travel to compete in games on a full-sized pitch. This year, we host the Western Canada Gaelic Games Tournament, that will bring 300+ players and spectators to Calgary, benefitting local business and hospitality industries. Next year, we plan to host the first ever Pan-Canadian games here in Calgary, with invited teams from as far afield as Newfoundland.

Where there is a clear opportunity to address the needs of these populations, an expected associated benefit from this project is to attract interest from non-Irish sources in the community, many of whom are looking for a cost-effective sport with similar levels of contact, physicality and dynamism that their national sports of ice hockey, lacrosse and Canadian football provide, without the huge associated equipment and membership costs. We currently have members from Canada, England, Wales, Australia, New Zealand and Ethiopia amongst others and we wish to share these sports and integrate the clubs into the Calgary community in order to promote team sport participation that is accessible to all demographics.

Beyond Gaelic and Australian games participation, the benefit of this development to River Valley School students and local Bowness residents is immeasurable. Erin Corbett, head of River Valley School, has been an integral part of plan development, and is committed to giving back to the local community and providing safe and enjoyable access to physical and outdoor education. All members of the community will have access to the upgraded facility through the City of Calgary recreation booking system when it is not in use by the key stakeholders.