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National Mountain Centre dream closer

Canmore’s plans for $35 million facility get boost



By Lynn Martel

Backers behind the push for a National Mountain Centre in Canmore are looking over the results of a $250,000 feasibility study with an eye toward moving to the next phase — construction of a $35 million building that promises to be a national icon.

Launched in September 2005 and conducted by independent parties Western Management Consultants, Grant Thornton LLP and Econometrics Research, the feasibility assessment is now in its final stages.

And after examining key components, including an economic impact study and architectural design study, the findings all point toward a successful, self supporting venture, said Doug Leonard, a member of the volunteer board that is moving the project along.

“The conclusions that have been drawn from all the different components show that the prospect of the NMC is strong. The outcomes have been positive,” Leonard said.

Supported through funds from the Western Economic Development Fund, Alberta’s Minister of Economic Development and Parks Canada, and including $41,000 from private donors, the highlight of the assessment came in the form of the architectural design study.

“That’s the one that excited all of us the most, because it’s a manifestation of the principles and values and ideas of the Mountain Centre, and it allowed us to integrate all of those concepts into a functional program,” Leonard said.

After inviting six architectural firms from across the country to submit designs, the board decided upon the ideas of Saucier et Perrotte, a Montreal firm with more than 40 national and international awards.

“We had very serious response,” said board member Bob Sandford. “Choosing was very difficult.”

Aiming to be the biggest and most comprehensive facility of its type in the world, the architectural plans feature outdoor decks providing views of the surrounding mountains, an indoor climbing wall built to international competition standards — none of which currently exists in Canada — permanent and temporary museum exhibits, two state-of-the-art multimedia presentation theatres, art galleries, a restaurant overlooking the mountains and retail shops specializing in mountain related gear and clothing.

“There’s no angle you can view in the building where it does not reflect the surrounding horizon and landscape,” Sandford said.

Everyone involved in the process understood the magnitude of the NMC concept, added board member Geoff Powter, and the idea that it should represent the evolving and prosperous Canadian west.

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