What upgrade would be required to WinSport's sliding track to become Olympic calibre?
Built for the 1988 Olympic Games, the sliding track at WinSport was home to three major Olympic events: bobsleigh, luge and skeleton. After three decades, the track remains an essential training venue for international teams and is an annual host of major events, including World Cups. According to a recent study by The City of Calgary, WinSport contributes $120 million to the local economy every year; however, while the sliding track still meets many of the international competition standards, it is in need of upgrades.
WinSport has recognized the need to remain competitive with World Cup standards and is planning a $20-million track remodel, potentially beginning as early as the summer of 2018. Currently, the track operates with two starting points (Y-shaped), with the upper section of the bobsleigh/skeleton track merging with the luge track further down the course. Plans for upgrades will consolidate the tracks by removing the starting arm used by bobsleigh/skeleton, and having all sleds use the luge course.
A new refrigeration system is also planned to increase energy efficiencies on the course. The current refrigeration system operates by cooling the entire track, even if only parts need to be cooled. For example, currently if one section of track receives significant sunlight, the entire track is refrigerated to cool just that one area. The planned upgrade will allow the track to be managed in sections and target specific areas for cooling, allowing for significant efficiencies in energy use and maintenance on the track.
Having the previous infrastructure from 1988 Olympics is a major advantage to Calgary as refurbishments and upgrades cost significantly less than if a facility were to be built from the ground up. However, an additional investment of $10-15 million, in addition to WinSport’s planned upgrades, would be needed to bring the sliding track up to Olympic standards. WinSport’s legacy buildings (storage sheds, starting shed, etc.) from the previous 1988 Olympics are also in need of enhancements. And finally, upgraded technology throughout the track would be required to bring enhanced timing, data and video capabilities, as well as sunshade technology, which can be necessary during specific weather conditions such as rain, snowfall, or direct sunshine.
Examining existing assets such as WinSport’s sliding track is an important factor in considering the viability of a potential Olympic bid and to also inform the city in its consideration of renewing and revitalizing Calgary’s sport infrastructure for the next generation.