Oval no longer just scraping by

BILL KAUFMANN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

CALGARY -- The time clock's not about to run out on Calgary's aging Olympic speedskating oval.

Ottawa and WinSport Canada have reached a financing agreement to ensure the oval remains the country's premier facility and one of the world's finest for the next two decades.

As speedskaters flashed past, oval assistant director and Olympic blade champion Catriona Le May Doan hailed the pact as one that'll enable Calgary to retain its title as a premier training centre. "It's still the best in the world and we want to make sure people view it as the best in the future," she said. "This is a place that helped me build my dreams ... what it shows to youngsters is dreams can become reality."

Oval operators are tapping into the principal of the Olympic Endowment Fund (OEF), the interest of which had been used to upgrade facilities. Immediately, $10 million from the fund will be used to repair the cavernous building's roof that's leaked ever since it was built 23 years ago.

Over each of the next 20 years, $2.4 million will be used for operations and other repairs, said federal Sport Minister Gary Lunn.

"It'll bring it back up to standard," he said. "This oval has amazing life left in it."

To drive that point home, Olympic speedskaters Jeremy Wotherspoon and Jamie Gregg dashed a ceremonial sprint.

The money will also fund such amenities as a new track, refrigeration and even zambonis, said officials.

Calgary Centre-North MP Jim Prentice, who helped engineer the agreement, said Calgary's legacy in empowering elite Canadian athletes will live on.

"It was a pivotal moment in our country's history," said Prentice, citing Canada's sterling performance at the Vancouver Olympics.

"Much of it comes back to this facility."


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