The Pulse: Nov. 23, 2023

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  • 1°C: Clearing in the morning. Wind up to 15 km/h. High plus 1. Wind chill minus 9 in the morning. (forecast)
  • Blue: The High Level Bridge will be lit blue for Adoption Awareness Month. (details)
  • 3-6: The Edmonton Oilers (5-12-1) lost to the Carolina Hurricanes (11-7-0) on Nov. 22. (details)

Three games of pickleball take place inside a gym.

CatchCorner helps Edmonton sport centres reduce booking headache

By Colin Gallant

A Toronto-based tech company called CatchCorner, which allows users to find and rent soccer fields, skating rinks, and yoga spaces, recently expanded to the Edmonton region and is already creating more overall space on offer while also making life easier for facilities by modernizing the booking process.

Westmount Fitness Club, a not-for-proft, is one of roughly 20 local businesses and organizations in and around Edmonton that have adopted CatchCorner since it arrived about six months ago.

"We've replaced one-off renter bookings … I now ask that (renters) book through CatchCorner because there's fine print, and a waiver, and a release of responsibility that they re-sign every single week," manager Andrew Fulks told Taproot. "And for me, from a liability standpoint, I think that's important. I wanted to take the pressure off of myself and my staff, and then have that stuff just online."

A CatchCorner co-creator said the process to book recreational sports spaces is often cumbersome, and can strain businesses or organizations.

The industry's rental processes "didn't have that sort of Uber-ized model," company co-founder and CEO Jonathan Azouri said. "The way that I would kind of market ourselves is more of an OpenTable … We're kind of a B2C (business-to-consumer) platform in the sense that we don't put anything on our app that isn't an established business."

OpenTable is an online reservation service for restaurant tables that has helped consumers and restaurants since 1998.

CatchCorner (which is sometimes referred to as CatchCorner by Sports Illustrated, thanks to a co-branding deal) operates in most large Canadian cities and several big U.S. markets, like New York-New Jersey and Los Angeles-Anaheim. But Azouri said it isn't just sporting centres that benefit from the platform, pointing to organizations with rec space to rent, which formerly struggled to do so, that are now using CatchCorner to activate it.

"Religious institutions, such as a church or a mosque, may have a gym, but their specific insurance requirements don't allow them to actually rent to the general public," he said. "CatchCorner generates inventory that would have never existed before because it provides all of the insurance-based documentation for a facility, once it does get booked."

A local example of this is True North Basketball Academy, a facility that's normally only open for programs for ages 6 to 18. Azouri said CatchCorner helped open the facility to bookings for people hoping to play basketball, volleyball, and pickleball.

That should be good news for enthusiasts in Edmonton's large pickleball community. Azouri is also working with a few of Edmonton's more than 100 community leagues to explore opening their outdoor rinks to a wider rental market.

Another sport in the recreation world that is often looking for space, especially for kids, is soccer. Azouri said CatchCorner has a large inventory of soccer space at Edmonton venues, including Level 1 Sports inc., Sherwood Park District Soccer Association, and Turf Training Centre. And while CatchCorner isn't exactly a substitute for regular league play, it has supplemental value to youth.

"Whether it's parents booking for, let's say, birthday parties, or whether it's a team manager looking for additional practice space, we do have a footprint and an impact on youth-based sports," Azouri said.

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Headlines: Nov. 23, 2023

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

  • Court documents show Edmonton has incurred US$1.3 million in losses due to problems with its electric buses, including hundreds of thousands of dollars on internal labour and replacements costs and more than $200,000 on "battery blankets." Proterra, the U.S. manufacturer of the buses, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this summer, leaving Edmonton with an unsecured claim of more than US$8 million. Lawyers for the city are seeking the US$1.3 million in advance, as well as assurances that contracts will be fulfilled. More than half of the 60 buses need replacement parts, said Leigh McCabe, a technician and representative with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569.
  • City council continued with budget deliberations on Nov. 22, with the focus on administration's recommended 7.09% tax increase next year. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi suggested the increase must lie between 7.09% and 4.97%, stressing council needs to be "very realistic" about the cost of providing necessary city services. He also said council is dealing with the consequences of "irresponsible decisions" made by past councils that opted for 0% increases and left snow, bus, and turf maintenance services underfunded.
  • In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mayor Amarjeet Sohi requested additional support from the federal government to respond to racism and discrimination in Edmonton in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks and Israel's war on Gaza. The letter, made public on Nov. 22, also calls for an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages, the evacuation of Canadians in the region, and unrestricted humanitarian aid to Gaza. "Although the conflict is happening thousands of miles away, for many Edmontonians, it is incredibly personal," Sohi wrote.
  • Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums recognized the Edmonton Valley Zoo at the 2023 Annual Awards of Excellence. The zoo received a conservation award for its ex-situ propagation of the northern leopard frog and an innovation award for its "Pay it Forward For the Planet" program. Doug Warren, a zoo volunteer of more than 25 years, received a volunteer of the year award.
  • Edmonton Transit Service launched its 29th annual Stuff a Bus campaign to support Edmonton's Food Bank, which is facing unprecedented demand. Donations can be made several ways, including dropping items off on Nov. 25 at 15 participating Save-On-Foods locations or at the Clareview LRT Station, where volunteers will stuff a train. The Stuff a Bus campaign is also accepting donations through the food bank's website.
  • Arts on the Ave has launched a new campaign encouraging Alberta Avenue residents and business owners to call police or other appropriate services when they witness crime or unsafe behaviour in the area. The Make the Call initiative was created following engagement sessions with community members, businesses, and representatives from the Edmonton Police Service. "We want to be able to really feel like this is welcoming and safe and a holistic approach to community development," said Arts on the Ave executive director Christy Morin.
  • The Mustard Seed is asking for new, unwrapped toy donations to fill the shelves in its Family Gift Centre, a pop-up shop where low-income families can purchase Christmas gifts for $2. "We want caregivers to have an opportunity to get their Christmas gift shopping done without the added stress of trying to make ends meet," spokeswoman Rebecca Trask said. Donations can be dropped off at the Mustard Seed Community Centre at 10568 114 Street NW.
  • Global News explored whether mild weather and a lack of snow is putting a damper on the holiday spirit this year. Businesses like the Borealis Lights Drive Thru in St. Albert are struggling to attract customers. Other businesses, like When Pigs Fly on Whyte Avenue, have been busier than usual. Greenland Garden Centre transformed into a "Christmas wonderland" early and has seen business booming, including high demand for live Christmas trees.
  • Kirsty Choquette, a PhD student in the University of Alberta's School of Public Health, received one of nine Mitacs Awards at a ceremony on Nov. 22. The awards recognize students or postdoctoral fellows who demonstrate a commitment to inclusive innovation, breaking down barriers, and creating opportunities for underrepresented groups. Choquette engaged with Indigenous elders, knowledge keepers, and community members to develop an evaluation framework that ensures Indigenous youth in the province's care feel represented as they leave the system. The framework is now being used by the Alberta Mentoring Partnership and other organizations.
  • The Edmonton International Airport is hosting training sessions for Aspen Service Dogs, allowing 30 dogs to practice being in airports. The sessions include mock check-ins, security screening, boarding a plane, and finding seats. Letting service dogs become comfortable in the airport will "go a long way to help our community" and meet accessibly needs, said Liz Dwernychuk, the airport's director of passenger experience.
  • Influenza season in Alberta, coupled with a high rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations, is causing concern about hospitals struggling under increasing pressure. More than half of Albertans hospitalized for influenza this season have been in the Calgary zone. Physicians are also concerned about the immunization rate, with only about 17.8% of Albertans getting their flu shot this year.
A street sign indicating a 40 km/h speed limit in front of leafless trees, a tall building, and an overcast sky.

Calls for public engagement: Street safety, northside renewals, rezoning

By Kevin Holowack

Here are opportunities to lend your voice on proposals in Edmonton, including how to improve safety on 40 Street and Hermitage Road, renewal projects in Overlanders/Homesteader and Dunluce, and a proposed rezoning in the Marquis neighbourhood.

  • Towards 40 Program — 40 Street and Hermitage Road — Sections of 40 Street and Hermitage Road have been added to Edmonton's Towards 40 Program, which focuses on improving compliance on streets that transitioned to 40 km/h in 2021 and others where safety issues have been identified. Residents who regularly use 40 Street or Hermitage Road can attend an in-person engagement session at St. Maria Goretti School on Nov. 29 or complete an online survey until Dec. 13.
  • Overlanders/Homesteader Neighbourhood Renewal (refine) — Residents of Overlanders/Homesteader are invited to review the draft design for the neighbourhood's renewal to help ensure it reflects the project's vision and guiding principles. A drop-in session is happening at St. Maria Goretti School on Nov. 29, while an online survey can be completed until Dec. 13.
  • Dunluce Neighbourhood Renewal (refine) — Residents of Dunluce are invited to review a draft design for a renewal project to help ensure it reflects the project's vision and guiding principles. An online survey is available until Nov. 30.
  • Marquis Town Centre Rezoning and Plan Amendments — A proposal is in the works to rezone several existing land parcels in the Marquis neighbourhood amend area structure plans. The application seeks to reduce the town centre commercial area, increase land for mixed housing, realign a potential future LRT line in the area, adjust the site of a potential LRT station, and more. Residents can ask the project planner a question or share their thoughts about the application until Dec. 3.
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