Calgary home to new sports hall
by Blaine Meller
Over the years, Canada Olympic Park has undergone significant changes. From the addition of the ski jumping towers and bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games, to ice rinks, offices for Winsport Canada and a high- performance training facility, COP is no longer just a modest ski hill. As of June, 2011, there will be yet another significant addition to the grounds of COP, that being Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Calgary beat out eight other cities, including Toronto in the final bid, to become the official and permanent home for the Hall of Fame, which will now include the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame as well.
The 40,000-square-foot facility, which opens in June, is currently being built at a cost of $50 million, including contributions from the federal, provincial and city governments of $15 million, $10 million and $5 million respectively. According to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame president and CEO Claire Buffone-Blair, there are almost 20,000 artifacts and archived items in storage in a warehouse in the city’s northeast. These items are currently being examined and categorized by hall of fame staff and volunteers. While not all items will be on display at the same time, Buffone-Blair is excited about a number of unique pieces, including the initial torch lit in Athens for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.
Among the other items Buffone-Blair noted are outfits worn by figure skater Elizabeth Manley and gymnast Kyle Shewfelt during their 1988
and 2004 Olympic medal performances respectively and a Maurice Richard jersey from 1959. Additionally, the hall is currently negotiating with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment regarding their James Naismith collection. Naismith is the Canadian physical education instructor credited with inventing basketball in 1891. Construction crews broke ground on the hall this past February. The building angles upwards from west to east, a feature intended to symbolize the climb Canadian athletes face on their respective journeys. The main hall will have a glass exterior, using as much natural light as possible to keep the building bright and welcoming. It is located on the west side of Canada Olympic park, near the Ice House and building current under construction that will house the offices of WinSport Canada.
The hall itself is comprised of two floors. The main floor will have a retail area, ticket counter, multimedia area and office space. The upper floor will house 11 different galleries, a media room where patrons can record their own play-by-play descriptions of historic Canadian sports events and a 120-seat theatre. The theatre will show a six-to eight- minute highlight package that is currently in production. Although the hall is not opening until June, Buffone- Blair said they are working on a fairly strict timeline.
“We need to have all 11 gallery exhibits done by the end of October so they displays can be fabricated,” she said, adding that a majority of artifacts will be displayed in 9-metre cases.
Previous to the hall’s opening will be the Class of 2010 Induction Dinner here in Calgary Nov. 10, where eight new members will be introduced. The dinner is sold out, with over 800 people expected to attend the ceremony. There are six people being inducted in the athletes category and two in the builders category. The hall currently has 514 members. Buffone-Blair also stressed the hall of fame is a national museum, not a Calgary museum. As such, she hopes to be able to share artifacts with people across Canada, and in turn, have others share with the local community.
“Our vision is to nationalize the hall as much as possible. Ideally, we would like to see exhibits go across Canada so as many people as possible
can see them and hopefully be inspired by them,” she said, adding that in the spirit of sharing, the hall of fame will “likely” be asking the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto for access to the puck Sidney Crosby scored the gold-medal winning goal with at the Vancouver Olympics. She said the hall may also pursue the No. 19 jersey Paul Henderson wore during the 1972 Summit Series.
Previous to CSHOF, Buffone-Blair was with Own the Podium, where she served as Director of Planning and Operations. She has also held positions with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport and the University of Calgary. For more information on Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, visit www.sportshall.ca.