Olympic Oval Working Group Update

Speed Skating Canada Members,

As you may know, Calgary's Olympic Oval has been encountering some financial challenges of late. This past Fall, the President of the University of Calgary (UofC operates the Oval) hosted a meeting with WinSport (formerly CODA; the legacy funding body from the 1988 Olympics) and SSC, with the objective of coming up with a plan for speed skating use at the Oval for the next 20 years. As one of our main roles in this exercise, SSC was called upon to work with the UofC staff to come up with a sustainable programming plan for the years ahead. That process has recently started through the formation of a Working Group that represents all of the speed skating interests (ST and LT) at the Oval.

Olympic Oval Working Group (OOWG)
The core OOWG consists of Mick Dilger (President of the Calgary Speed Skating Assoc), Blair Carbert (President of AASSA), Sean Ireland (Olympic Oval/Oval Program), Nicole Slot (SSC Athlete Director), and Susan Auch and Sean Maw (SSC Directors). The OOWG has also involved staff from the CSSA (Shawn Holman), AASSA (Mike Marshall) and SSC (Brian Rahill and Yves Hamelin) as well as members of SSC’s Competitions Development Committee and the Organizing Committee Calgary (which organizes World Cups/Championships at the Oval). We recognize that the wants and needs of other Branches are also at stake, and that they are important. As such, the other Branches have been notified of these talks and have been invited to contribute and to take part in formulating the plan.

Challenges and Opportunities
The OOWG is currently compiling a list of various facilities and services that our sport wants and needs from the Oval, as well as a list of what the Oval wants and needs from us. There will then be a negotiation to find a point of common interest on all of these issues. So far (after a few weeks of preliminary meetings) the process is going very well. Everyone is sharing and cooperating. The first task is determining what we all want and need going forward, and what we are willing to contribute to see those wants and needs met. The possibilities are exciting though, in part because this is the first time that all levels of speed skating (in both ST and LT) have worked together to address the issue of how best to make use of this prized national resource (the Oval).

National Teams and the Oval Program
SSC will continue to train National Team athletes at the Oval, in both ST and LT. Equally importantly, we are being told that the Oval plans to continue the Oval Program next year and beyond for both ST and LT, so long as there continues to be demand and support for these programs. At this stage, the Oval Program will be run by Oval employees, working for the UofC. However, the Oval is also open to other management models where other entities could operate a program that looks like the Oval Program. At this point, we are counting on the Oval to continue offering the Oval Program for at least another year until the Canadian speed skating community determines if this is the best go-forward model for that kind of service.

Consultation and Further Discussion
The future of the Oval Program will surely be a point of lively discussion at the 2010 SSC AGM in July. At this point, the OOWG wants to let you, the Canadian speed skating community, know that a plan is being worked on that is focused on the long-term viability of the Oval for the sport of speed skating. As well, if you wish to contribute to this process, we would welcome your input. Please contact SSC at ssc@speedskating.ca or Sean Maw at seanmaw@shaw.ca to give us your thoughts.

2010 will be a big year for speed skating in Canada. The Working Group wants to make sure that we have many “big years" after 2010 as well, by helping the Olympic Oval remain a world leader in promoting and advancing the sport of speed skating at all levels. The Oval will be a speed skating centre where athletes, coaches, volunteers, and administrators share knowledge and ideas and combine and coordinate efforts in participant and athlete development. A healthy Olympic Oval will make for a healthy sport of speed skating in Canada, and a healthy sport of speed skating in Canada will make for a healthy Olympic Oval.