Did You Know Some of Calgary’s Parks and Recreation Centres are Among the Biggest in the World?

Not only is Calgary home to some of the biggest and most extensive parks and pathways on the continent, but it also has the two largest YMCA recreation centres in the world.

Illustration by Gust of Wind Studios.

​There’s a saying that things are bigger out west and that’s certainly true of Calgary’s parks and recreation facilities. This city of 1.4 million people contains the two largest YMCA recreation centres in the entire world. When you consider that, currently, YMCA operates in 120 countries and has more than 1,000 locations in Canada alone, it’s even more impressive.

Opened in 2018, Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge (the second largest) boasts 284,000 square feet of recreational space, including a 217-seat theatre, a first-of-its-kind “self service” library, a 25-metre, eight-lane swimming pool and the largest glue-laminated timber roof in Western Canada.

In 2019, Brookfield Residential YMCA at Seton usurped Rocky Ridge as the largest with its 330,000 sq. ft. building, where you’ll find a 10-lane pool, a surf simulator, three full gymnasiums, and a 200-metre running/walk track, among other amenities.

Despite these two crowning achievements, YMCA vice-president, experience Tanya Connelly-Scott insists that size isn’t everything. “Each [YMCA] is unique and the communities we serve are unique, but we have the ability to offer programming that speaks to our local communities,” Connelly-Scott says. “When you talk about the [YMCA] it’s bigger than these two buildings. We’re one of the longest serving non-profits in Alberta, so the fact that we can continue to be relevant and have an impact in our community is something we’re incredibly proud of.”


Path & Parkway Pride

Along with the world’s largest YMCAs, Calgary is home to some of the biggest and most extensive parks and pathways on the continent. Here are some highlights:


Calgary’s Pathway System

Plans for a connected pathway system in Calgary began to take shape in the late 1960s, with the first section completed in the early ’70s. Those pathways have only continued to grow, now spanning approximately 1,000 kilometres of paved paths and 96 km of trails, making it the most extensive urban pathway and bikeway network in North America.


Fish Creek Provincial Park

Fish Creek is the second-largest urban park in Canada and among the largest urban parks in North America. It spans 19 km east-to-west and is home to deer, coyotes, weasels, fish and hundreds of bird species.


Nose Hill Park

This prairie grassland preserve is among the top 10 largest urban parks in Canada. At 11 sq. kms, it’s three times the size of New York’s Central Park and supports the conservation of the remaining five per cent of Alberta’s fescue grassland.

Learn more about the people and organizations moving Calgary forward with Avenue's Innovation Newsletter.

This article appears in the March 2023 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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