Kinsmen Sports Center
9100 Walterdale Hill
History of the Kinsmen Field House
Since its official opening on January 3, 1968, Edmonton's Kinsmen Field House has provided unique year-round public facilities for sports and recreational activities for millions of Canadians. Although several American universities had similar structures, the Kinsmen Field House was the first facility of its kind in Canada and the only one in North America available to the general public. Enhanced with the addition of the Kinsmen Aquatic Center in 1978 and the world-class Keltie Berne Fitness Center in 1992, the Field House (now part of the Kinsmen Sports Centre) remains one of the truly outstanding public recreation facilities in the world. Every member of the Kinsmen and Kinette Clubs of Canada can be proud that such a remarkable facility bears the Kinsmen name.
The Kinsmen Field House is located in Kinsmen Park, situated in the heart of Edmonton on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River. The goal of the Kinsmen Field House project was to provide a centrally located facility that would greatly expand the year-round sports and recreational activities available to the citizens of Edmonton and northern Alberta. The Field House was intended to be the first phase of a multifaceted Kinsmen Village that would eventually include an Olympic-size Swimming Pool and an indoor/outdoor performing arts theatre.
The Field House is 204 feet wide, 368 feet long, and 48 feet in overall height. It covers an area of 1.6 acres. At the time of its opening, the facilities provided in the Kinsmen Field House consisted of a main field room measuring 185 feet by 310 feet (about the size of an American football field) with 37 feet clear ceiling height; bleachers with seating for 1,750; men's and women's locker rooms with adjacent showers and toilets; weightlifting room; first aid and training rooms; eight large storage rooms for athletic and maintenance equipment; entrance foyer, concourse and balcony (since converted to a three lane running track); press box; administrative offices for Edmonton Parks and Recreation staff; meeting rooms available for recreational and service groups; two large concession areas and extensive washroom facilities on both the main and upper levels.
In the fall of 1961, the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton committed itself to a major new development in Kinsmen Park. The Club was anticipating the conclusion of its ten year agreement with the City of Edmonton for the development and operation of Kinsmen Park. Having already invested over $300,000 in the park, the Club sought a new project of ambitious proportions that would ensure the continued development of Kinsmen Park as a centrally located sports and recreational facility that served the needs of all Edmontonians. The Club established ten committees, each charged with the task of identifying and proposing a suitable development project. Every member of the club was assigned to one of these committees. Fifteen months later, the Club adopted Kinsmen Village featuring three of the resulting proposals, a field house, a swimming pool and a performing arts theater, as its forthcoming service project. Kinsman Village would be a place where Edmonton's youth could exercise their minds and bodies and develop the leadership abilities that the Kinsmen know Edmonton would need in the future. The plan called for construction to occur in three stages. The Field House was to be the first stage of this ambitious undertaking.
Over the next three years, numerous club members expended much time and effort in developing the Club's ideas into a concrete plan for development. This plan received the enthusiastic endorsement of community recreational leaders and all levels of government. The Club engaged the architectural firm of Rule Wynn Forbes Lord & Partners to assist it in developing the detailed architectural drawings and specifications for the Field House. A call for tenders was issued in the fall of 1966 and the firm of Burns and Dutton Construction was selected as the low bidder. On January 6, 1967 the Club unanimously passed a motion authorizing the execution of a contract for the construction of the Kinsmen Field House. The contracts were signed later that month. The Field House would be the Club's Centennial Gift to the citizens of Edmonton.
The Kinsmen Field House was selected as the best service project ever undertaken by the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton primarily because of the long-term impact that it has had on Edmonton and the surrounding areas. The Field House was the key development that established Kinsmen Park as the finest public sports and recreational facility in Edmonton if not all of Canada. It cemented our Club's bond with Kinsmen Park and ensured that we would continue to contribute to its development over the long term. In 1976-77, the $8 million Kinsmen Aquatic Centre, featuring four swimming and diving pools, several racquet courts and meeting rooms, cafeteria and fitness facilities, was built adjacent to the Field House by the Edmonton Kinsmen. In 1985, the Club constructed new change room facilities for park and playing field users. In 1992, the club funded the $1 million Keltie Berne Fitness Centre that was constructed in underutilized space inside the Aquatic Centre. In 1993, the playground in Kinsmen Park was completely redeveloped by the Kinsmen Club at a cost exceeding $300,000. Today, Kinsmen Park including the Sports Centre, playground, sports fields and Pitch 'n' Putt golf course receives more than one million visits annually. It is easily the most heavily used sports and recreational facility in Edmonton.
The Club's original vision of the Field House as the cornerstone of a much larger multipurpose facility that would meet the needs of all Edmontonians has indeed been realized.
In the late 60' s, the population of Edmonton was approximately 370,000. The city was served by a single daily newspaper (the Edmonton Journal), a few weekly and monthly periodicals, two television stations and several radio stations. Then as now, Edmonton's economy was largely based on two major industrial sectors: agriculture and energy. In addition, because Edmonton is the capital city of Alberta, the government sector has always been a significant factor in the local economy. Founded in 1926, the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton was 41 years old when the Field House was built.
Edmonton is one of the more northerly cities in the world. Consequently, the weather is not conducive to many forms of outdoor recreational and sporting activities for several months of the year. Our summers are far too short. In the early 60's, Edmonton was seriously lacking in sports and recreational facilities of all kinds. The only public indoor facilities were YMCAlYWCA and school gymnasiums. In fact, Canada as a whole was notably lacking in indoor sports facilities. Following the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, at which Canada won a total of four medals, Canadian Olympic Track and Field coach Jim Daly suggested that each province should construct two field houses as a Centennial project in order to provide adequate year-round training facilities for Canada's athletes. The Kinsmen Club of Edmonton recognized Edmonton's need for a major indoor facility that would provide year-round opportunities for sports and recreation and responded with the Kinsmen Field House project.
During its first year of operation, attendance at the Field House exceeded 75,000 consisting of 38,507 participants and 36,514 spectators. Among the many activities that took place in the Field House during its first year were an indoor soccer league, track and field training and meets, rugby, archery, cricket, fastball and baseball practice. The University of Alberta Golden Bears and the Edmonton Eskimos football teams both were able to make use of the facility for practices during inclement weather. Many notable special events such as the First Annual Kinsmen's Sportsman's Dinner, the Edmonton Antique Car and Gun Show and the 1968 Canadian Indoor Track and Field Championships were held in the Field House.
The usage of the Field House has continued at a high level ever since. In 1982, attendance figures at the Field House exceeded 260,000. Regular activities at this time included jogging, track, soccer, tennis, rugby, fieldhockey, baseball and football. Special events included concerts, lectures, professional wrestling, car shows, beerfests, conferences, religious gatherings, craft shows and cultural festivals. The Field House and Aquatic Centre have also hosted scores of local, regional, national and international athletic competitions over the years. The most noteworthy being the 1978 Commonwealth Games and the 1983 World University Games. In 1994, attendance figures for the Kinsmen Sports Centre over-all exceeded 660,000 and are on track to exceed 750,000 in 1995. The Field House continues to be used for a wide range of regular activities and special events.
Numerous sports and recreational clubs, teams and groups make use of the Field House on a regular basis for practices, training, league play and tournaments. The individuals who use the Field House come from every social and economic background. They range in age from toddlers to seniors although the majority fall in the 20-45 age range. Although it is impossible to assess, the Kinsmen Field House has certainly been a major contributor to the health and happiness of thousands of Edmontonians.
There can be no doubt that the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton gained significant recognition from the Field House. From the early planning stages through construction to its opening, the Field House received considerable coverage in the Edmonton Journal as well as other print media. Although there are no records to confirm the extent of broadcast media attention to the planning, construction and opening of the facility, our K-40 members tell us that there was indeed significant television and radio coverage. It is safe to say that the Field House and it's eventual further development into the current Kinsmen Sports Centre have brought more recognition to Kinsmen within Edmonton than any other project. The Kinsmen name is still regularly mentioned in all Edmonton media as a result of the many special events that take place in the Kinsmen Sports Centre.
In late 60' s, membership in the Club was at a level that the members felt was as high as it should be. Indeed there was a waiting period of several months from the time a prospective member applied until he was accepted. Consequently, the Club did not grow significantly in size as a result of the Filed House project. However, it is noteworthy that a second Edmonton Kinsmen Club, the Kinsmen Club of Fort Edmonton, was chartered with 41 members within two years of the completion of the Field House. Clubs were also chartered in a number of neighboring communities in Edmonton area during this period. It is not unreasonable to conclude that the publicity afforded to Kinsmen from Edmonton's Field House was a significant factor in the external expansion of Kin in the Edmonton area.
According to Club records there were 135 members in good standing as of March 31,1967 and 1372 March 31, 1968. Obviously, all members the club participated in the fund-raising projects that mal the Field House possible. The committees that oversaw the actual tendering and construction of the F House consisted of approximately 10 members. A second committee of approximately five members planned and organized the publicity, opening ceremonies and related events. All members of the Club were called upon to sell tickets to the 1968 Canadian Indoor Track and Field Championships which were held in the Field House in conjunction with its opening.
Twenty-five years after the fact, there is no way of telling how many volunteer hours were spent on t project since it appears that no records of this type were kept. However, when one considers the extent of the planning and fundraising efforts involved, one must conclude that tens of thousands of hours of volunteer time were required to the make the Field House a reality. The annual Car Awards event, w' the Club still runs today, by itself requires over 2,000 volunteer hours to sell raffle tickets during Edmonton's Klondike Days, to say nothing of the time spent in planning and organizing this fund-raising project.
Even with 135 members, the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton could not carry out a project such as the Field House without help. Two of the major fundraising activities of the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton during the 60's were Car Awards and Peanut Night. Then as now, the Club enjoyed the assistance of neighboring clubs in selling tickets during Car Awards. The Club's annual Peanut Night involved the participation of hundreds of members of the community, especially children, selling peanuts door-to. door. When planning the Field House, the Club consulted extensively with the leaders of sports and recreational organizations in Edmonton. Notably, the Club made Dr. Maury Van Vliet, Dean of the University's Faculty of Physical Education, an honorary member in recognition of his contribution to the project.
The fundraising activities associated with the Field House spanned at least 10 years. Club records indicate that the balance of funds in its Community Service Trust account as of August 31, 1961 was under $64,000. By August 31, 1966 this amount had grown to over $500,000. The Club raised an additional $100,000 prior to the finish of construction but was required to take out a bank loan of $250,000 in order to complete payments to the contractors. This loan was repaid over the next three and a Mortgage Burning party was held in May 1971. What a party that must have been!
Following the construction of the Kinsmen Field House, the Kinsmen Club of Edmonton received certificates of recognition from both the Parks and Recreation Association of Canada and the American National Recreation Association for our contribution to recreation. In 1994, the Kinsmen Sports Center received the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association's Facility Excellence Award. The Kinsmen and Kinette Clubs of Canada have recognized the project that spawned in this outstanding facility as the second of the top 75 service projects of all time.