Steep costs, a lack of facilities and fewer options for new-to-Canada residents are being cited as among the reasons behind what a new report has labelled as a “distinctive lack” of sport participants in northeast Calgary.
A survey of 1,000 households conducted by non-profit advocacy group Sport Calgary as part of its facility supply and demand study, and touted as the most accurate recent sporting assessment, found that just 28 per cent of respondents in the city’s northeast quadrant claimed to have a sport participant living in their home. By comparison, 41 per cent of northwest and southwest households had at least one participant and that figure rose to 45 per cent in the southeast.
Jason Hansen, president of the Deerfoot Soccer Association, deemed the discrepancy outlined in the report “shocking.”
He said his group tries to keep user fees as low as possible, but facility rental costs have “gone through the roof over the last year or so.”
“It’s completely unnecessary — kids need to play,” Hansen said. “We try to actually go to schools to hand out flyers to let them know that we’re here to help. We don’t want barriers, such as finances or language, to get in the way of kids that want to play soccer.”
The Sport Calgary report also found that the average household with at least one sport participant spends $3,406 annually on sports and nearly half of that goes to cover registration or membership fees. Another nearly $700 is devoted to cover equipment costs.
In July, KidsSport Calgary boosted the annual sport registration costs it will cover for households meeting federal low-income standards to $400 and executive director Kevin Webster said demand for the financial assistance grows every year.
KidSport, along with numerous partners, also recently launched the Comrie’s Sports Equipment Bank in a bid to gather used sports equipment and redistribute it to athletes from low-income households.
Webster wasn’t surprised of the cost findings in the Sport Calgary report, noting a recent KidSport Canada found Alberta’s sports-related costs were the highest in the country, with parents spending shelling out $1,428 annually per athlete.
Webster said he suspects a lack of facilities may be at least partly to blame, as demand tends to drive up fees.
“I just hear the stories — I know their could be more ice pads and more indoor fields for soccer and so on,” he said.
Tim Bjornson, executive director of the city-sponsored advocacy group, said it’s not all doom and gloom as some new Canadians may not be accustomed to common sports offered in the city. Some people, he noted, may have never even seen an ice surface, let alone skated on one.
“How crazy is that? Strapping a blade to the bottom of your feet,” he said.
Still, he conceded there are affordability issues and said the northeast’s layout leaves limited field space
The Sport Calgary report will be presented to city council and could spur recommended changes to the city’s 10-year plan for sport facility development and enhancement.