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Building Better Sport, Physical Activity and Active Recreation


We are most proud of the efforts of both the City of Edmonton and the Edmonton Sport Council in creating an inclusive, accessible, and healthy city but we want to go further to find areas to be even better. To this end, the recommendations below are aligned with the Live Active Strategy and support a vision of enhanced equity and well-being in Edmonton communities.

Sport, physical activity, and active recreation for all

All Edmontonians have the right to experience the positive physical, psychological, and social benefits of participation in sport and active recreation. Therefore, it is particularly important for the City of Edmonton and all partners to focus on the participation of socially and economically marginalized Edmontonians in sport, physical activity, and active recreation.

Recommendation #1: That the City of Edmonton’s fair and equitable allocation models better support new organizations in developing sustainable programs.

Sport Legacies

Hosting mega, major and signature sport events can bring many positive benefits to the community.

Recommendation #2: That all mega, major and signature sport events hosted in Edmonton leave a legacy. These legacies may be infrastructure, monetary, programming, and/or social in nature.

Recommendation #3: That any facility developed or redeveloped to host a mega, major or signature event must be accessible for community use after the event.

Recommendation #4: That a target of 1% of all revenue generated from mega, major and signature sport events hosted in Edmonton be invested in a financial legacy to advance sport, physical activity, and active recreation in Edmonton. Such legacies shall be utilized to operate and maintain any facilities created for the event and advance programming - especially that which advances the participation of socially and economically marginalized Edmontonians in sport, physical activity, and active recreation. Such legacies may be:

  1. Held by the event host or their designate, or
  2. Transferred to the Universiade '83 Foundation trust account held by the City of Edmonton. 

Recommendation #5: That the Universiade ’83 Foundation grant priorities be reviewed and updated to include projects that build participation of socially and economically marginalized Edmontonians in sport, physical activity, and active recreation, and when sufficient funds exist, increase the frequency of distribution of grants. 

More recently, mega, major and signature sport event organizers are being asked to help communities address long-standing social issues and to leave the community better than before. The case can be made that social legacies such as greater community cohesion, improved accessibility, additional community programming, enhanced volunteerism, greater overall sport participation, increased physical activity and improved health of citizens are just as relevant as, and perhaps even more important than, other event legacies.

Recommendation #6: That all mega, major and signature sport events hosted in Edmonton create a social legacy. Social legacies are defined as positive impacts that foster improvements in an individual's circumstances, opportunities, engagement, awareness, and overall health, particularly socially and economically marginalized Edmontonians.

Three examples of social legacies are:

  1. Beginning at the 1993 Canada Games and carried forward to the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games and the 1995 Canada Games, host organizers have used local secondary and post-secondary students to build Games-required products and teach construction skills. The host organizing committees then helped place program participants with local companies.

  2. The 2017 Toronto Invictus Games wanted to increase the public awareness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and support soldiers and veterans dealing with the aftermath of their service. Among the social legacy programs, the organizers partnered veterans with Bell’s Let’s Talk and WE Day to speak about PTSD. This partnership continues today as a social legacy. The committee also ran a job fair for veterans in the athlete’s village.

  3. The London 2012 Paralympic Games set an inclusion target of hiring three to six percent of workers with a disability. This was exceeded and nine percent of the workforce were workers with a disability.

Wellness and Creating Connectedness

Physical inactivity is a public health issue. Low levels of physical activity are associated with increased risk of anxiety and depression, non-communicable diseases like heart disease or diabetes, and chronic disease risk factors like obesity. 

Participation in sport and active recreation provides a sense of social connectedness that is a leading factor in the promotion of health, psychological well-being, and longevity. Sport and active recreation are avenues to meet others in the community and build relationships, which contributes to positive psychological and social outcomes that have implications on an individual’s quality of life. In a time when we are finally returning to normal activities, sport and active recreation can help us build connections that we are missing in other areas.

Recommendation #7: That government and key decision makers recognize and further invest in sport and active recreation which would provide a positive return to the health and wellness of the participant and the community through decreased health care costs.

At a provincial level, a minimum of one percent of the health care budget should be invested in health and wellbeing initiatives including sport, physical activity, and active recreation as preventative health care.  A cross-ministerial committee needs to be established to review the overall provincial investment in health and well-being and its potential impact to save health care costs. 

The Importance of Space

While recognizing that the City of Edmonton has, over the last two decades, made significant investments in recreation and sport infrastructure, there is a need for continued investment in open spaces and sport and recreation infrastructure, and the activation of these traditional and non-traditional spaces and places. This would help meet the vision of the 2020 City Plan as Edmonton’s population grows from one million towards two million.

Recommendation #8: That the Joint Use Partners advance ways to open public school gymnasiums desired by community organizations, but which are not being made available for Joint Use time due to lack of resourcing and/or custodial issues.

Recommendation #9: That as the City Plan seeks to advance a community of communities, investment must include smaller sport and active recreation facilities within each community hub. These spaces should be more affordable, inclusive, culturally relevant, accessible, and equitably available.

Recommendation #10: As evidenced during COVID-19, it is essential that additional outdoor spaces be created and, when possible, empty non-traditional spaces be repurposed into accessible spaces for sport, physical activity, and active recreation opportunities.

The Barrier of Travel

The City of Edmonton’s 2018 “Approach to Community Recreation Facilities” states that “every resident will have a place to connect, be active and participate in recreation indoors (e.g., on ice, in water, or gymnasiums and fitness centres) within 5 kilometres of their residence.” Also stated is that “A 5-kilometre catchment area represents approximately a 15-minute drive by personal vehicle or a 20-minute bicycle ride in Edmonton in 2018. Most residents indicated that 15 minutes of travel time was acceptable before distance becomes a barrier to participation.”

The 2020 City Plan is developed on the premise that “A well-integrated transit network will help provide Edmontonians with what they want - access to safe, convenient and reliable service with faster journey times. A transit network where people can get around the city hassle-free without depending on a car will attract more people to choose transit and reduce auto trips.”

Until the well-integrated transit network is developed which is always safe for all, many Edmontonians, and particularly children and youth, who lack a family vehicle cannot access a City of Edmonton recreation facility in a timely fashion. This situation is further exacerbated in the Winter when active transport is not an option for many.

Recommendation #11: That the City of Edmonton identify how the Edmonton Transit Service can better address travel barriers for sport and recreation purposes, especially as it relates to children and youth and those experiencing disability.