Tucked away at the edge of Braeside sits Fowler Athletic Park, with its track painted in that familiar, calming shade of blue. The track and field facility has been a staple of the St. Albert athletic community for almost 40 years, and while it’s been long beloved by local athletes, it may come as a surprise that it was once a destination for track stars from all over Alberta. And though it may be less busy than it was during its glory days, Fowler Athletic Park continues to serve as an essential facility for aspiring athletes.
Fowler Athletic Park wasn’t built just for locals; it was built for all Albertans to enjoy, as part of the 1979 Alberta Summer Games. At the time, the idea of a provincial sporting competition was relatively new, with the first games taking place five years earlier in Calgary. The games weren’t a proven success yet, and the impact it would have on host communities wasn’t entirely known. But St. Albert’s community leaders saw the games as an opportunity to feature our city on the provincial stage, and made a bid for St. Albert to act as the 1979 host.
Former St. Albert mayor Dick Fowler took on the task of organizing the bid, and when it was successful, he became the chief organizer for the event. But Fowler and his fellow organizers faced a problem: St. Albert did not have an adequate track and field facility. They realized they would have to construct one, but this came with a challenge.
Many sporting event planners are infamous for overspending on facilities, only to have them go unused after the event. Fowler and his team wanted to avoid this trap, prioritize sustainability, and give St. Albert a track facility that would be used for generations to come. As such, their design made use of low-cost options, but also allowed for future expansion. For instance, they went with a rubber asphalt track instead of using traditional shale because asphalt could be easily upgraded.
The park was constructed on time, on budget, and the games were deemed a success. It was given the name Fowler Athletic Park in honour of the man who lead the charge.
If there were any worries that the park would sit unused after the completion of the games, they were quickly quashed. One year after the games ended, in 1980, the track became home to a new sports organization: The St. Albert Track and Field Club. The St. Albert Mustangs, as they’ve become known, provide training for young athletes ages 8 to 25 years. The club has since produced a number of young track stars, with many who have gone on to compete in the summer games themselves, bringing Fowler’s vision full circle.
The park also became a standard go-to for school gym classes. The location chosen by Fowler and his committee was no accident—it sits within walking distance of four schools, and quick bussing distance of many more. If you pass by on a school day in the fall or spring, it’s common to see students jumping and running around the track.
While St. Albert isn’t hosting the summer games these days, there are still annual competitions in the park. Every spring, the St. Albert Mustangs Track and Field Club hosts a local track meet, where young athletes can exercise their competitive spirit.
Fowler Athletic Park continues to be a much-enjoyed and valued asset of our community. In addition to the clubs and schools that make use of the park, the facilities are open to the public when there are no other events booked. If you’re not ready to join a club, but you want to give track events a try, the blue-hued Fowler Athletic Park is the perfect place to take the plunge. t8n
Fowler Athletic Park was only one suggested name for the facility. Others included Summer Games Athletic Park, Doug Gilbert Memorial Track, and Sir Winston Churchill Athletic Park.
While the Alberta Summer Games have not returned to St. Albert since 1979, the city has played host to a few of its spin-offs: The Alberta Winter Games in 1994, and the Winter Games (for ages 55 and up) in 2011.