Exploring Calgary’s Active Economy

An active economy drives significant economic and social benefit to a city including direct benefits related to economic growth and employment, and indirect ones such as those related to social relationships. Indirect benefits include the development of skills essential to innovation and economic diversification.

The active economy, parallels and compliments the principle of the creative economy which is a lens to evaluate the impact of arts and culture on economic and social prosperity.

The active economy includes all for-profit, not-for-profit and public organizations and individuals who directly or indirectly contribute to the development and delivery of sport and active recreation experiences, whose aim is expressing or improving individual or community physical, mental and/or social health and wellness.

For additional background, refer to the ActiveCITY working paper Calgary’s Regional Active Economy: An Exploratory Study of the Role of an Active Ecosystem in Generating Community Value. Authored by Dr. David J. Finch, Dr. David Legg, Dr. Norm O’Reilly, Jason Ribeiro and Dr Trevor Tombe.


What Sectors are in the Active Economy?

We propose that the active economy is composed of ten sectors, and five stakeholder groups:

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Below are definitions and examples for each of the ten sectors:

Organized SportS

Competitive sports are activities involving physical exertion, skill as the primary focus of the activity, with elements of competition where rules and patterns of behaviour governing the activity exist formally through organizations. Examples include:  

  • Forms of physical sports (e..g soccer)

  • Forms of motorized sports (e.g. autoracing)

  • Coordination sports (e.g. darts)

  • Animal-supported sports (e.g. Show jumping)

  • Sport leagues (Amateur and professional)

  • Sport clubs and teams (Amateur and professional)

  • Sport governing bodies (e.g. FIFA)

  • Tournaments (e.g. World Cup).

Active Recreation

Active recreation are activities engaged in for the purpose of relaxation, health and well being or enjoyment with the primary activity requiring physical exertion.They are often spontaneous in nature and participant led with a low level of organization and limited structure. Examples include:

  • Active transportation (e.g. cycling, walking, skateboarding), 

  • Aerobics

  • Gardening

  • Hiking

  • Recreational hockey

  • Swimming

  • Snowmobiling

  • Horseback riding

  • Tai Chi

Design & Infrastructure

Includes all for-profit, not-for-profit and public infrastructure required for delivering competitive sports and active recreation experiences. Scope includes the design, construction, maintenance, repair, operation, and the supervision of infrastructure and open spaces. Design and infrastructure can be broken into indoor and outdoor forms of infrastructure:

Indoor infrastructure includes arenas, gymnasiums, community centres and halls, indoor pools, cultural centres, senior and youth centres. 

Outdoor infrastructure includes stadiums, parks, playing fields, play-structures, trails, forested areas, outdoor pools, splash pads, pavilions, gardens, waterfronts, marinas, outdoor courts (e.g., tennis, basketball), outdoor rinks and golf courses,additional civic infrastructure that supports the delivery of active ecosystem products and services (e.g. Cycle tracks).


Tourism directly associated with competitive sport or active recreation development or delivery. Examples include:

  • Ecotourism

  • Hosting major sporting or active recreation events

  • Wellness tourism

  • Tour companies

  • Accommodation providers

  • Transportation services


Development, manufacturing and sales of equipment associated with competitive sport or active recreation development or delivery. Examples include:

  • Bike manufacturers

  • Racket sport manufacturers

  • Golf manufacturers

  • Sport and active recreation retailers

Apparel & Accessories

Development, manufacturing and sales of apparel and accessories associated with competitive sport or active recreation development or delivery. Examples include:

  • Licensed apparel manufacturers

  • Footwear manufacturers

  • Sport and active recreation apparel retailers

Media & Content

Media and content directly associated with competitive sport or active recreation development or delivery. Examples include:

  • Broadcast rights holders

  • Media organizations and individuals who specialize in sport or active recreation. 

  • Sport and active recreation content developers 

Professional Services

Professional services directly associated with sport or active recreation development or delivery. Examples include:

  • Ticketing services

  • Marketing agencies

  • Sport advisory services

  • Sport law

Sport Betting

Sport betting is predicting competitive sports results and placing a wager on the outcome. Examples include:

  • Lottery and gaming authorities

  • Casinos

  • Fantasy sports

  • Horse racing

Health & Wellness

Health and wellness products and services supporting the delivery or engagement in competitive sport or active recreation. Examples include:

  • Traditional & Complementary Medicine

  • Preventive & Personalized Medicine and Public Health

  • Healthy Eating, Nutrition & Weight Loss

  • Fitness & Mind-Body

  • Workplace wellness

  • Wellness real-estate

ActiveCITY researcher SpotlighT - Dr. Norm O'Reilly

For more information on the activecity collective, please contact: 

Dr. David Finch
Co-Chair, ActiveCITY Collective
Email: dfinch@mtroyal.ca