The Herald Reveals Many Arena Project Details

For the past several years, details on the potential new building for the Calgary Flames building were as follows: they wanted one because the Saddledome is old.

This morning, the fine folks at the Calgary Herald – notably Jason Markusoff of the city hall beat – worked their magic and basically gave us a very nice dump of info regarding the project, which to this point had more or less been theoretical and confirming many whispers and suspicions surrounding it.

Per the Herald‘s sources, the proposal reportedly includes:

  • A new arena for the Calgary Flames
  • A new stadium for the Calgary Stampeders, also owned by the Flames
  • A new amateur fieldhouse, which the city has been trying to get funding to build for years

According to the Herald, all three projects would be bundled together into the same complex.

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The project is also reportedly targeted for the West Village land, located west of the old Mewata Stadium and roughly comprising the area that includes the Greyhound station and GSL Chev City. The city owns the vast majority of the proposed land. Much like the East Village, the city has had designs on developing the West Village land into mixed-used developments. In theory, a new arena/stadium project could be used as a centerpiece for a mixed-used development, depending on how it was designed.

In terms of transportation, the West Village has good and bad points. The good? The Sunalta LRT station is right there, as is Bow Trail. The bad? Crowchild is also there, and it’s a mess. But the city has a relatively-new Crowchild Trail study going on, designed to make that area less of a traffic nightmare. But obviously several roads would need to be re-thought if this project goes forward.

And in terms of funding this mega-project, the combination of being in an area the city wants to develop and including a project that the city wants to build is a smart move. The Edmonton Oilers managed to swing a pretty decent funding arrangement up north, in part because they were savvy enough to position that project as a centerpiece in making Edmonton’s downtown a place human beings want to visit. The Flames have seemingly hedged themselves against any public backlash against funding by (a) placing the project in the under-developed West Village, (b) placing near the eventually-upgraded Crowchild Trail corridor and (c) including the fieldhouse. Heck, bundling the arena and stadium together also lessens the perception of double-dipping in asks for public money, too.

So what’s next? That’s unclear. Per Markusoff:

King shared his plans with Nenshi in mid-March, then the mayor relayed it to council in a closed-door session Monday evening, multiple sources have confirmed. But there’s still no formal proposal submitted to council, and it’s unclear when King will finally reveal the ambitious concept to the public, though he did say a month ago the release was a “couple of weeks” away.

Presumably, once the project evolves slightly more – as it’s progressed from a idea or a notion into what seems to be a pretty decent plan – King and Flames ownership will present that plan to city council and then the public at-large. Considering that every time the media or public have been given a timeline about the project announcement, it’s come and gone unceremoniously, I wouldn’t hold your breath.

But it appears we are getting closer.

  • ville de champignons

    About time. Sounds good. Get it done. Screw government services and the weak nanny-state-euro-NDP mentality that infects this country. Go Flames Go!

  • Derzie

    Transportation consultants need to be brought in from cities with actually sane planners. Anyone who has witnessed Calgary road/construction projects be instantly clogged the moment they are open can attest to that.

    Also, riding a high horse about using taxpayer money is a fools game. We the tax payer have zero control over how our money is spent/wasted. Taxation exists to create jobs which creates more tax money and to make a few people richer in the process. With a significant amount of ‘our dollars’ effectively being p!ssed away. We have zero say in that process. Getting worked up over spending a few of those lost dollars on a sports complex is wasted energy. Billionaires profit from taxes no matter what and the money will be inefficiently spent. Accept that and let it play out. Or, get upset and it will still play out the same way. Save your energy for cheering the Sean, Johnny & Sam led Flames in the new arena. And expect big price increases for seats.

    • mattyc

      Big price increases for seats are totally OK in my mind.

      Even if we accept your assertion that ‘Taxation exists to create jobs”, I’d rather those jobs are put towards schools, healthcare and the environment rather than an arena/entertainment district that only high income earners can enjoy.

      Somewhat related, the Bow Tower created a lot of jobs, and supports one of the major Calgary employers (Encana). Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe they got a bunch of government subsidies, even when they were short money in 2009. Why should the Flames be any different?

    • SmellOfVictory

      lol seriously? Keep thinking that while you drive on your tax-funded roads to tax-funded doctor’s appointments. Or would you prefer that everything was owned by private industry, so all roads would be toll roads, and you’d get to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars extra per year in medical bills?

  • Reidja

    The first step is to float the concept and area to prepare folks and get a sense for the public temperature. King and the Flames are savvy. I love the concept but the devil is always in the details. It’s absolutely a difficult time to have any discussion about appropriation of public funds so I expect this will play out a little more slowly than if oil was at $90. But maybe that effect won’t be as pronounced as one would assume.

    Thank goodness it’s not in Balsac.

  • Colin.S

    “The Edmonton Oilers managed to swing a pretty decent funding arrangement up north”

    The Oilers might have, the city of Edmonton got swindled on that deal.

    I’m not opposed to the city providing the land for the deal, or helping with the Fieldhouse portion of the project (don’t know how if it’s suppose part of the Stamps new arena) or providing money to improve infrastructure to that area of the city. But that’s where the line should be drawn. Other professional sports teams have built their own arenas with their own money (example: Vancouver Canucks) and if the Flames want full control of their arenas they should put up their own money.

  • JumpJet

    Exciting stuff!

    I haven’t been to many NHL arenas, but the Saddledome has certainly run its course. It’s still much better than Rexall place, so I don’t think there should be as much urgency to move the Flames as there is to move the Oilers.

    The only other NHL arena I’ve been in is the Pepsi Center in Denver, and it was a great building. I’ve heard great things about Pittsburg’s Consol Energy Center and Nationwide Arena in Columbus, so hopefully the Flames ownership group takes tips from those buildings.

  • This is huge, not only for the hockey community, but for other sports as well. I run track in Calgary and we’ve been trying to get this field house for some time now, its definitely a necessity so we’re quite pleased about this!

    I fully support this in every way, they are fulfilling several needs for new venues, and this project will help a lot of people, in addition to providing the Flames a shiny new arena to call home. Of course I’ll miss the iconic Saddledome and its design, but this will (in my opinion) be a huge positive impact on the city!

  • ville de champignons

    @ rockmorton65 – I am a people person who believes in maximizing personal responsibility and liberty. I contribute heavily to those charities that have proven track records of getting assistance to those in need without government inefficiency and overhead.

    @mattyc – Didn’t mean to come across as attacking you personally and by Canadian standards, Alberta is the one jurisdiction that is trying to maintain a common sense approach to government management of our lives.

    To all FN posters – My apologies for diverting the topic in order to conduct a personal poll on this issue. Thanks to all who voted.

    Go Flames Go!

  • ville de champignons

    Don’t know if the roads and transportation is bad news. As you stated the city are planning to upgrade the Crowchild Tr. interchange for new development planned for the area and the Calgary Transit are putting in a Transitway along Crowchild and through west village area to downtown. There would be some good choices to go to the Football or hockey games :

    1. LRT ( from the east south west and north directions )

    2. Transitway from the East or south end of the city and

    3. Last by car if there is going to be much parking in the area.

  • ville de champignons

    I just don’t see how they would have enough room without re-routing bow trail. I’m all for getting rid of those car dealership eye sores… but this seems like it will be a big facility, with the need for parking.

    This seems like it would be better placed in the Foothills Athletics park.

  • ville de champignons

    Maybe Nenshi would take the 1% “art tax” that amounts to tens of millions of dollars annually towards the arts scene and divert it to an athletic complex that would benefit many in the community and attract world renowned acts. Unlike that “ring” art at the north end of the city, a sports facility would be something most would benefit from and enjoy.

  • Parallex

    I love that the new complex is west side of the city and “should” be easier to get to and from after the transportation improvements.

    I also like that the location of the facility allows us to access Federal dollars on the Crowchild upgrade. The same goes for provincial dollars (although I have some hope that provincial dollars are allocated to the complex itself which puts me square in the minority apparently).

    Anyways, the money may not be directly allocated to the Arena but indirectly the funds can go to great use. Anyone trying to navigate Crowchild / Bow Trail / 12th Ave underpass / Memorial Drive can attest to the current mess in there. Combining the Field House / Football into the area could have huge benefits for future events and has the indirect benefit of providing more space for the U of C.

    Lots to like about this. While I do see the benefit of using provincial dollars to make this a world-class location, I also look forward to City and Province pushing the owners HARD. Edwards can afford to make a big capital commitment here. In fact, he can “afford” it from a cash perspective right now since his prized asset(s) are underperforming with low oil prices… less places to put his cash.

  • Parallex

    Nothing’s changed.

    The Flames want a new arena and stadium… fine, I’m perfectly okey with the city doing transit upgrades to facilitate access and if the city wants the fieldhouse anyways I’m fine with incorporating it into their plan and paying a reasonable amount for that… but not $1.00 of public money for the arena/stadium and no land gifts.

    • RedMan

      You don’t get business do you? Do you think major corporations or businesses move into locations without some breaks from local government? It’s the way life works. While none of us want the city to give up the farm, ridiculous comments like “not $1.00 of public money” demonstrates ignorance of the process. I appreciate your attempt to be a martyr but it’s not realistic. Yes, the municipal, provincial and possibly federal governments will contribute but private money will be the vast majority.

    • Parallex

      Congratulations! You win my prize for the most narrow minded comment I have ever read on FN. Of course you are entitled to your opinion that is why this website was established…. Regardless I grant you my prize….you don’t get it do you…no public funds..that statement was very clear by Ken King….even if there was a certain element of public dollars I would support it…why…we get a facility built for amateur sports built for the benefit of the young kids and athletes in Calgary….what about the development in the Westend? What about the archaic facilities that Calgary has…even Regina and Hamilton are ahead of us in terms on new facilities….what about the spin-off effects of these new grand facilities…do you think Hotels may be developed within the area…new jobs for chambermaids, waiters….I’m tired of typing…enjoy the Flames and Stampeders on TV…I have my doubt you even attend any games or you would realize how outdated and pathetic these facility really are…..

      • Parallex

        And you win my prize as the biggest arsehole as well as the prize for being the most ignorant person about the well demonstrated lack of benefit to municipal funding of sports complexes.


  • Parallex

    Rumor has it that this is also part of the plan to go after the 2022 or 2026 Winter Games again. Get some Fed. money too, and why not for Calgary, it did good in 1988 dollar wise, facilities, and now a global city.

    Sounds like a big plan overall for the city and everyone.

  • RedMan

    I have no problem with the arena being funded by tax dollars as long as the Flames and everyone else that uses it pays an appropriate fee that sees the money recouped over 10-20 years, If however the Flames want all the revenue generated, then it only makes sense for them to pay the cost of it. They own it, they pay for it. Other then that, Go Flames Go!

  • Bikeit

    Not sure if that site is still contaminated but back in the day 30’s or so there used to be a a railway tie creosote plant there and they made such a mess that it contaminated the site and flowed under groud to the surrounding area. I grew up across the river and they knew about 40 years ago and would drill in the neighbourhood to see where it had spread underground.Probably cost the tax payer multi millions to clean it up for the flames arena.

    • Robear

      Its an interesting point that you raise, but I actually expect if this development progresses and includes some deeper subsurface structures then much of the contamination will have to be excavated as part of the process.

      Excavating the contaminated material will eliminate most of the problem associated with the source. Combine it with some sort of in-situ groundwater re-capture system and it should dramatically improve the situation and the speed at which the creosote contamination gets remediated.

      I’ve seen this before at several other industrial locations. This could be just what that area needs and will return a previously un-useable area that was being under-utilized into a productive part of the City. At least that’s my hope.

  • McRib

    I agree that the majority of the funding of a new sports complex should come out of Murray Edwards & Co’s pockets, but I honestly have never understood the absolute hate directed towards putting government funding into sports complexes…

    When in Canadian history has a sports franchise not returned the initial investment given to them by the regional government (or will in due time)? The Montreal Olympic Stadium went over budget 1990% because the local Mafia was triple charging all of the construction costs, but despite that the city of Montreal has said the stadium broke even years ago…. I was in Montreal when the building broke even and people were shocked, as it was the most overbudgeted build in the history of the world. Not to mention sports arenas bring millions in additional revenue into the city from tourists visiting for local events.

    Honestly if anyone can give me an example where a city in Canada lost major money from investing in a local arena I will drop it, but no one can ever give me an example where tax payers were swindled out of millions…. All I ever hear is some academic being quoted saying “it’s going to be a bad deal for taxpayers”… How is it a bad deal? I have gone through all the academic literature that basically exists and never found an example where an old building was being torn down and the city was quoted saying “we are still owed millions”. Murray Edwards & Co. have more than enough money to front most of the costs, but if giving land or a small concession to the franchise helps speed up this build I don’t see anything negative as the city is certain to receive their return on investment and more through taxation of local business from economic gains. Dave Bronconnier gave some of the most fantastic land in the city to his “friends” for next to nothing with no return, that is a major issue, not this. I am sure the Flames will pay back more than they took and lets not forget we have former Flames owners Doc Seaman and Harley Hotchkiss to thank for helping to privately fund a large majority of our local hospitals in the past (2/3 of Foothills alone would not exist if it wasn’t for Doc Seaman) and other fantastic venues we all take for granted.

  • RickT

    Check out the old Houston Astros stadium. I believe it’s that one, don’t have the chance to check (on mobile).

    There’s a stadium that was closed before it was paid off. Still paying the huge mortgage.