WinSport day lodge revamp expected to break ground in spring as organization targets break-even

Organization is “within spitting distance” of reaching pre-pandemic revenue levels, CEO says.

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WinSport will finally break ground on its $40-million-plus day lodge overhaul this spring as the aging facilities from the 1988 Olympics begin a long-awaited modernization, the organization’s CEO says.

The not-for-profit is also approaching pre-pandemic revenue levels after COVID-19 “decimated” its balance sheet.

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“We’re moving full speed ahead,” said Barry Heck, president and CEO of WinSport, as it counts down the days to the start of construction on the Frank King Day Lodge at the base of Canada Olympic Park.

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The renovations will include retrofitting its systems to make it a net-zero facility, expanding and optimizing guest space inside the day lodge, and building barrier-free access between the parking lot, day lodge and recreation facilities.

The expected 18-month renovation project will close a portion of the lodge for the 2024-25 winter season, Heck said. A small area of the lodge will remain open during that time for skiers and other guests, he added.

WinSports day lodge revamp conecpt art
An artist’s rendering of what the renovated WinSport day lodge could look like. Work on the revamp is slated to start in spring 2024. Supplied image

WinSport had previously targeted spring 2023 for construction to begin. Specifics still haven’t been released, as it remains in the design phase.

Rising construction costs make the final price tag a moving target, Heck said.

“There has been significant cost escalation in the whole construction industry . . . we’re working very hard to hold that number in the low ($40 million) range, and so far it appears we’re on track for that.”

WinSport has received about $35 million in government support for the project, which Heck said will end up costing around $41 million to $43 million. The federal government initially pitched in $17.4 million, while the Alberta government said in October 2022 it was committing $17.5 million. The rest will be covered by sponsorship and philanthropy.

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Heck expects the project to be complete by the end of 2025.

WinSport ski hill
Skiers enjoy balmy -3 C weather on a sunny day at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park on Tuesday, January 9, 2024. Brent Calver/Postmedia

COP hits record for number of ski passes sold last winter

WinSport is “within spitting distance” of reaching pre-pandemic revenue levels — last winter it sold more than 9,000 passes and set a record for the number of season passes sold in a season.

The organization doesn’t receive annual funding grants to help with operations, Heck said, which often means it operates at a loss. WinSport has previously implored the City of Calgary to increase funding for sports facilities, citing the city’s outdoorsy culture as a competitive advantage it needs to maintain.

“We have always . . . operated at a loss. That varied from close to break-even to big (loss) numbers over the years — eight, nine million dollars of just pure operating loss,” Heck said. “We’re closing that gap.”

WinSport has made a concerted effort in recent years to attract newcomers to the ski hill, and is using its facilities for a wide range of activities and events. It has expanded its use of the Markin MacPhail Centre, for instance, to be used as an event centre for concerts and various sporting events as opposed to solely an ice rink and athletic training centre.

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These efforts to expand and revitalize WinSport come after the organization was “decimated” by the pandemic, Heck said.

Still, it continues to face challenges with its naturally high operating costs, including utility expenses that were projected earlier last year to hit $3.5 million.

“Ultimately, at some point in the not-too-distant future, we would like to get that to a break-even number so we can sustain ourselves for 40 more years.”

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