Recreation & Sport


Calgarians enjoy a vast network of sports ranging from hockey to cricket and even Australian Rules Football. The city is known for its outdoors with quick access to the Rocky Mountains and downhill mountain bike trails. However, these activities are becoming much more difficult for the average Calgarian to participate in. The commodification of recreation and sport has turned them into exclusive pastimes. In addition, the economic downturn has forced Calgary families to limit their activities. Recreation and sport has become inaccessible to many Calgarians.

To retain and grow its standing as one of the most livable cities in the world, Calgary must invest in a broad approach to recreation and sport. This includes both larger centres capable of offering services like dive tanks, skating rinks, and wave pools; and diverse smaller facilities which provide a broad range of program and service options.

We must make recreation and sport available, accessible and easy for all Calgarians to participate in.


Recreation and sport play an important role in thriving communities.

  • The pandemic has exacerbated financial hardship in Calgary and leisure and sports are a lifeline to many Calgarians. For Calgarians experiencing poverty, financial assistance alone does not address the disparities around access to quality and affordable leisure programs.
  • Lack of access to recreation and sport also intersects with other forms of marginalization, including those experienced by Indigenous, racialized, LGBTQIA2S+ and other demographics.
  • The City of Calgary’s Municipal Development Plan acknowledges that recreation plays an important role in:
    • building complete, strong and great communities;
    • adding to the cultural vitality of the city;
    • contributing to economic development and prosperity;
    • fostering active and vibrant neighbourhoods; and
    • sustaining healthy communities by promoting active living.
  • Competitive sport needs to be a contributing part of a complete sport ecosystem. All levels of sport (recreation, elite, professional) need to contribute to the ecosystem and encourage community involvement.



Households in Alberta with higher annual incomes are 3.5 times more likely to be physically active than households with low incomes.



Community centres often serve as local hubs that foster neighbourhood recreation.

  • While elite sport facilities receive financial support, community centres struggle financially to offer health programs to their communities.
  • Community centres and all other facilities need to be easily accessible to people with mobility needs or disabilities. Far too many of these centres are located in car centric developments that are hostile to pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and children.
  • Designing transit around these hubs will increase accessibility for low income users.
  • Cycle tracks, traffic calming and safe accessible streets should be prioritized for the area that these hubs are located in.
  • Where possible, cycling and transit should be integrated into the local area planning process to improve accessibility.

       see our related position on Transit


Reconciliation through sport

  • The Calgary Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee (CAUAC) through the White Goose Flying report identifies five calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that relate specifically to recreation and sport. They also provide recommendations for Calgary Recreation to address these calls to action.
    • #87: celebrate Indigenous athletics history
    • #88: enhance athletic development
    • #89: deepen policies to promote physical activity
    • #90: establish stable funding, programs for coaches, anti-racism awareness
    • #91: include Indigenous participation in international gaming bids
  • CAUAC’s recommendations need to be funded and fully implemented to take meaningful steps towards reconciliation in this area.

       see our related position on Indigenous Inclusion & Reconciliation


Cycling 20 minutes per day can reduce risk of heart disease by 50%


The Data

  • Slightly more than one-half (56%) are participating in outdoor recreation, such as skiing, hiking, cycling, or similar activities, with young adults aged 18-24 showing higher participation rates (65%) than those aged 25 or older (55%). (Fall 2020 Calgary Attitudes and Outlook Survey)

  • Four-in-ten (41%) Calgarians are participating in indoor recreation, such as swimming, gym, yoga, or similar activities on a monthly basis, statistically consistent between young adults (47%) and those aged 25 and older (40%). (Fall 2020 Calgary Attitudes and Outlook Survey)

  • Fewer Calgarians (19% overall) have participated in organized sports (team or individual) on a monthly basis within the past year, and young adults show higher participation rates (30%) than those aged 25 and older (18%). (Fall 2020 Calgary Attitudes and Outlook Survey)

  • Cycling 20 minutes per day can reduce risk of heart disease by 50% (Sustainable Calgary, Healthy Places, June 2019)

  • The more affluent are 3.5X more active. Households in Alberta with higher annual incomes are 3.5 times more likely to be physically active than households with low incomes. (Sustainable Calgary, Healthy Places, June 2019)


Actions for Calgary

  • Prioritize financial, social and geographic accessibility in the City’s recreation investment decisions.
  • Give low-income Calgarians the opportunity to register for recreational activities in their neighbourhood free of charge.
  • Promote physical literacy, create educational activities and eliminate financial barriers for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • Recreational and sport facility fees should prioritize accessibility over financial return on investment.
  • Develop and implement a mandate requiring all recreation and sport infrastructure and programming, including those used for elite and professional sport, to foster recreation and sport within the community.
  • Fund and fully implement CAUAC’s recommendations in the White Goose Flying Report, including the five calls to action that specifically call out work to be done by Calgary Recreation.


Success should not be defined by a program’s or infrastructure’s financial return on investment, but rather its impact in the communities it serves.


Links and Resources

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