calgaryNEXT: Financial Speculation and Wish List

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At this point, we’ve all
probably consumed the maximum amount of CalgaryNEXT content available to us,
and water coolers around the city are buzzing with excitement of what the
project may hold.

Few concrete details are
known at this point – a significant bulk of information will come at
Tuesday’s media and season ticket holder announcement – but from what we can
gather, the CalgaryNEXT project will for sure include:

   An arena for the Calgary Flames

   A stadium for the Calgary Stampeders

   A fieldhouse for the Stamps, Flames
and the public (Flames would utilize it for off-ice training)

No
surprises there.

There has also been speculation that it will include commercial and residential aspects, which make sense considering the slogan “Work. Live. Play.”

My bet is
it’ll piggyback off of The
Gila Rive
r
 Arena, the Staples
Center and others around the NHL in instituting its own little
town-within-a-town, with shops and bars and those awesome little cobblestone
streets. It’ll be a destination for more than just the regular sports fan.
It’ll be a destination for all Calgarians and tourists alike. 

A good comparable I’d say is Edmonton’s future ICE District – which is
essentially the redevelopment of eight or so city blocks, including an arena
for the Oilers and Edmonton’s first building exceeding 8 stories in height. A Calgary Sun source likened the project to Lansdowne Park in Ottawa. 

The
City has wanted to redevelop the West End of Downtown much like they have the
East Village and inject some life in an area littered with car
dealerships and questionable alleyways, while the Flames wanted facilities
for their sports empire. This will be the compromise. 

I
also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Flames and City somehow work
the restructuring/remaking of Crowchild Trail into the project, so that
the road connecting the city’s north and south will conveniently feed
right into the Superplex. That’s just speculation on my part,
however. 

Who’s
Paying For It All?

No doubt the
biggest source of debate ever since it was suggested the Flames would
need a new arena, the appetite for tax payers to subsidize some of the cost is
minute at best. As long as Naheed Nenshi and Rachel Notley are in power, there
should be no concerns about tax payer dollars directly going towards the arena,
because “it ain’t gonna happen, boss.” Both politicians are strict in
their agenda to serve ALL the people, and a sports complex that
generates revenue for a private corporation isn’t exactly that, regardless
the number of taxpaying citizens that will attend and enjoy events at
the facility. 

In line with that thinking, reports indicate the Flames will bear the entire cost of the
arena themselves. Hooray! Although it feels weird
celebrating something that seems so commonsensical. “Hey taxpayers,
can you build me this thing that will make me super rich? Thanks!” 

While the
arena will be funded completely with private dollars, don’t think the
entire project will follow suit. 

It has
already been reported the Flames will ask the City for a 200 million dollar
contribution towards the fieldhouse, and that’s just the tip of the
iceberg, methinks.
 

Stylizing
this project as an urban development and giving it a catchy, hip name like
CalgaryNEXT leads me to believe the Flames will be looking to “partner”
with the city on this project which may be code for “give us lots of
freebies and favours cause we’re your partners in achieving YOUR dream
of redeveloping the West End.”

The City had
plans to build a $200 million fieldhouse to begin with, so essentially
asking for a relocation of the project is entirely reasonable on the
Flames part, but that won’t be all. Since included in the arena and stadium
project will likely be economic drivers like shops and bars and maybe condos,
then the Flames are probably asking the City to give
them the land for free. I don’t know if I have a
big problem with that, but it’s public contribution
nonetheless. 

Then there’s
the issue of the the Creosote contamination that exists on
the proposed land and under the Bow River, which makes any immediate
development impossible. But as our own Ryan Pike pointed out
, the solution for that may come
the way of public dollars as well:

There’s
Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan, which the
recent federal budget just jazzed up with more funding. Granted, it’s unlikely
that the old Canada Creosote site could be completely cleaned up on the federal
dime – there’s a lot of projects that fall under the purview
of the Contaminated Sites umbrella – but if you’re the Flames ownership, you’d
be very happy if any part of the project got funded even in part. It’s money
you don’t have to spend.

So BAM, more
tax money. Again, I don’t have a huge problem – or any problem –
with the Federal Government contributing to clean up a toxic situation that
needs to be dealt with sooner or later (not exactly comfortable with
having toxic waste underneath my city’s drinking water source, but that’s just
me), but that’s further contribution from Taxpayer Terry to a private project. 

And that’s still probably not all. The Flames missed the boat in terms of negotiating an
LRT track/station running into the complex for direct access, since
the Sunalta Station has been servicing the area for years now, but they lined
themselves up nicely with the revamping of Crowchild Trail. 

The City is
conducting a study on the road which connects the north and south of city and
experiences apocalyptic backups daily during the rush hour peak, which is expected to be completed by 2016 with a proposal being brought
to City Council in 2017. If you’ve ever sat in Crowchild traffic at rush hour,
you know how INSUFFERABLY ANNOYING IT IS AND I HATE IT SO MUCH AND IT’S STUPID
AND UGGGHHH and this study is highly necessary in bringing a remodel to
the primary stretch of tarmac that can no longer handle the amount of volume
it’s subjected to.

Enter
Kenneth Paul King. 

“Since you’re remaking one of the city’s most important
roads why don’t you run it through our project here so Calgarians can have
the access to it they deserve”. BAM. Now your cash cow has Grade A access,
something the Dome is arguably missing. 

Albeit
indirectly, the project sucks up even more public dollars. 

So, while on
the surface it looks like the Flames are doing it all themselves and just
asking for the city to consider moving their original fieldhouse project,
taxpayers will still likely be heavily investing in CalgaryNEXT. As pointed out
though, the public dollars will be going towards things that have to
be done anyways, they’ll just likely be done in such a way that favors the
Flames’ venture.
 

Since that
means that means my tax dollars aren’t going directly into the wallets of
Flames executives, I don’t have a huge problem with things playing out the
way I illustrated above. That’s just me, though. 
 

Wish List

As it
relates to the sporting facilities (the arena and stadium),
my wish-list is longer than a greedy brat’s Christmas list. I won’t
get into everything because we’d be here all day, but there a few wishes I’d
like to voice.
 

For the
arena, a design that favors both sport and concert settings is paramount. No
more going to Edmonton for concerts. It’s embarrassing. 

From a
strictly hockey and lacrosse perspective, most every seat in the Dome has an
acceptable view of the playing surface, depending on how much you paid for
your tickets – obviously the view quality increases with price – so no
complaints there. Once you exit the bowl housing the playing surface is where
it gets rough in our dear ol’ Dome. The concourse needs to be a focus in
the new arena because the Saddledome concourse is a circus.

The Dome
essentially has one concourse level (it’s multi level in some obscure areas)
where everything resides – concession and washrooms specifically – and it’s an
absolute sewer. Navigating through the washroom and concession lines takes
serious skill. The
Gila River
arena in Glendale has three concourse levels and I’d like
to see the new arena in Calgary adopt a similar multi-concourse design.

The Coyotes
concourse set up works so well in part though because there are only between 7
and 10 fans populating it at any one time, so keep that in mind.
 

Possibly
getting into a nitpicky area, but underground or at least sheltered parking for
those punishing winter months would also be greatly appreciated. I’m not a big
fan of freezing my expletive off every time I go to a game from late October to
early April. The access in and out of an underground parkade would have to be
very well done so to avoid Crowchild-level backups post-game. Nonetheless, a
completely indoor trek from my vehicle to the game is definitely something I
want to see.

I’d have
also said a completely indoor path from an LRT to the new stadium would also be
high on my wish list, but the aforementioned Sunalta Station’s geographical
location and it’s architectural situation would probably make that impossible.
I mean, Edmonton will have the LRT run right into its ICE District but
WHATEVER.

As for the
football stadium and field house, I haven’t as many desires as it pertains to
those two buildings as I do for the arena, personally. Although I love my football, I spend the majority of my sport viewing time in an arena as opposed to a field.  

Having said that, I would indeed like to see a roof on the stadium to nix those brutal
-30 November Stampeder games and also to maybe entice mega-stars to play
concerts at such a giant venue without fear of noise restraints. 

I also hope the design of the stadium allows it to be easily transformed into a soccer pitch, opening the door for a Tier II soccer team to move in – like is present in Edmonton – and possibly the eventual addition of an MLS team. To my knowledge, there are no professional level indoor soccer facilities as in Calgary as it stands today. And while I don’t know the potential appetite for professional soccer in Calgary, I’d assume it’s considerable given the high immigrant population, alongside soccer’s growing profile in our country. 

Lastly, I
hope all these facilities are built with some real architectural innovation and
don’t end up as eyesores on the skyline. Both the arena and stadium will become
icons on the Calgary skyline along with the new Bow Tower and other current
regulars, and it’s important they stand out in a bold, but positive way. Don’t
let the Country Hills Blue Ring guy design these things, is all I’m
saying. 

And who
knows, maybe they’ll even be enough to entice the Olympics to make a return to
Calgary, as well. Wouldn’t that be fun?

What are
your thoughts on this impending project, and what’s on your
arena/stadium/fieldhouse wish list?

  • Christian Roatis

    Hooray for actual content! Good article, I’m really excited to see what’s presented on Tuesday. It’s taken so long for them to get here my expectations are high.

  • MontanaMan

    I’m all in. For those who say “not a penny of taxpayers money’ you’re in dreamland. At the end of the day, the private sector will foot most of the bill but the municipal, provincial and federal governments will contribute and so they should. The west end of downtown is an eyesore and this is a great opportunity to generate growth in a stagnant area. The LRT needs to run through the arena not “close” to it, so people don’t need to walk 1/2 mile in -40. Not sure what happens with the Saddledome or Stampede Park for that matter but it’s always amazed me that a great piece of land like Stampede Park sits idle (for the most part) for 355 days a year. There needs to be a better plan for that area. A good day for Calgary and look forward to the shovels hitting the ground. Let’s get this thing built.

  • Brent G.

    Anything beyond what you propose, Christian, for public funding is too much. Everyone in Edmonton seems to think this ICE district will have a positive impact on their economy and downtown core but we have all read the studies that disproves those claims. Let’s make sure we don’t make the same mistake. The thing I find no one wants to acknowledge is how bad Northlands area will get after it all relocates; it’s pretty sketchy today as is. Katz held them hostage and the city caved.

    The idea of a new arena is exciting but ultimately does nothing for me, and I frequent games and concerts often.

    • Colin.S

      Katz took Edmonton to the woodshed and came back with one of the most favourable deals any person could ask for when getting a free arena. He only had to put up around 60 million up front and the rest he is suppose to contribute can be paid back over the next 30 years.

      I’ve said it in every other article Flames Nation has put up on this topic, NO public dollars directly to the Flames arena. I think most people would be open to the idea of putting forward public dollars towards Roads/LRTs and other public infrastructure in/around the proposed mega project because if the city and Flames NEXT work together it could benefit a lot of Calgarians and prevent some big future infrastructure headaches. I’d be open to some public dollars going towards the Stamps new home though, there is no way that the stamps will ever get a new stadium without one, the Flames and Stamps are in two completely different galaxies when it comes to the level of income either one has.

      • Christian Roatis

        They’re positioning the stadium/fieldhouse deal as a half public venture, so it could be used for the public’s use when the Stamps aren’t using it to woo those tax dollars.

        Curious to see what becomes of McMahon? Do the Flames own it? If so they’ll probably just sell it to the U of C.

  • Colin.S

    How they maybe integrate the new crowchild into this is the most interesting part for me.

    Also really nice piece, Christian. Really enjoy your stuff and how in depth you get into things.

  • CofRed4Life

    “(not exactly comfortable with having toxic waste underneath my city’s drinking water source, but that’s just me)”

    Call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s just you.

    Also, great article. As a construction guy, this kind of stuff gets me excited!

      • ChinookArchYYC

        Most of the North Calgary’s water comes out of the Bearspaw facility on the Bow, but ahead of the contaminated site. The Glenmore mostly supplies the communities in the south.

      • slapshot444

        City water comes from both the Glenmore and the Bearspaw reservoirs. Depending where you are in the city you drink downstream from Bragg Creek or Banff. The contamination referred to was partially re mediated about 10 years ago and some of the containment reservoirs are still in behind the pump house theatre. Recently they discovered more contamination under the river. It’s likely not going to be known what the total clean up bill would be until they start digging. Regardless the feds will be paying most of the bill for that portion of the project. The good news about this project is that the remediation will get done in short order as opposed to the city being in charge where it might be done a lot later and all that time to let the contaminates flow into the river.

  • Colin.S

    Loved the article!!

    the only thing I’d say is: to hell with an enclosed football stadium!! I went to the Heritage Classic when it came, and the elements of being a completely open stadium was icing on the cake to that game. The elements of nature (-20*C on a mid-February night…); took me back to playing on the pond as a kid

  • RedMan

    I do hope they end up with something like Phoenix’s Gila River arena – it is a pleasure to eat and shop in the area leading up to a game, parking is a snap, traffic moves out quickly, and in general, the arena is much more conducive to a fun time.

    I also hope that add a nice hotel to the complex, like the one at the Gila River – it is cool to be able to stay at the same place the visiting team does, and as a visitor, it is nice to have a decent hotel near your destination venue.

    then there is the San Jose arena with all the wine kiosks… hilarious.

    I think it would be cool to have an outside ice rink near the arena as well, as part of the complex, open air but maybe with a cover. lots of possibilities with an outdoor rink as part of the shopping/restaurants/arena complex

  • Part of the distinction between Edmonton and Calgary is that DT Edmonton is a dump. I’m not sure the revitalization merits the money Edmonton is putting into it but that was a DT core badly in need of a facelift.

    Conversely, DT Calgary doesn’t need this. The “West Village” notion of changing some land from being a bus depot and car dealerships doesn’t really revitalize anything. It may give us another place to go but it won’t be the tail that wags the dog in terms of DT development.

    I’m OK with the types of contributions you are talking about here (maybe less so on freebies for condos and business development too) simply because we aren’t really using that land for much of anything. Turning it into something is a positive because it is largely useless as it stands. This positive shouldn’t come at the cost of us paying as much as Edmonton because frankly, our core simply doesn’t need it.

    I wonder what the red mile establishments think about this?

    • McRib

      “I wonder what the red mile establishments think about this?”

      Melrose is gone…. Not to mention have you tried to get into the Ship & Anchor, National, etc on a Thursday-Sunday recently….. They will be just fine with more and more condo development in Mission, Victoria Park, West Village they are laughing all the way to the bank.

      I actually think the westside of Downtown will see some added benefit from this such as in areas like Sunalta, Connaught, West Beltline & Kensington which could all use the stimulation.

      Also with Electric Avenue serving as a reminder spreading out entertainment districts in a city prevents major societal problems from happening.

        • Christian Roatis

          Because that’s the business world my friend. Having said that, City could realistically put conditions on the land to favour businesses, but if the Flames own it outright they’d rent out the land because it only further pads their bottom line, which in the end, is all any business cares about.

        • MontanaMan

          Wow another entitled NDP supporter. If you reallly were a businessman, you’d understand how business works. Trust me that any deal the City makes with the Flames won’t be offered to the small businessman as the businesses that follow the arena will pay very high rent rates for the opportunity to have customers at their door 365 days per year including major sporting events, concerts, and amateur sports. So if you are a savvy businessman step up with your lease money and make a pitch.

          • piscera.infada

            What’s your problem man? I mean, we all got it the first 17 times you started railing against the NDP and “their supporters”. Frankly, nobody cares regardless of who they voted for, or what their political allegiances are. Again, no one on this particular forum wants to read that garbage.

          • MontanaMan

            haha little sensitive are we? People get run at for everything under the sun – I got attacked for my allegiance to the US – so all is fair game. No need to take life that seriously big man.

          • Tommynotsohuge

            Leave political opinion out of this man. There is no need for that. Look where the PC’s got us. I’m pretty sure Calgary had no new arena while they were in power either. So why even bother bring it up?

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Does anyone happen to know if the Greyhound building and/or the Renfrew Chrysler site (next to Pump House theater) are part of the plans for this potential project. I rode by yesterday and I can’t see the site being big enough for 2 major stadiums).

    • McRib

      All that is going to be gone to the best of my understanding, new Greyhound bus depot has already been purposed for a different area of the city. I think the plan is to move it closer to the airport if I am not mistaken.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Christian has done an excellent job outlining a wish list and many items closely match mine. Practically speaking the new Flames Arena should double the size of each restroom and triple the total number. Ideally with a 60/40 women’s to men’s split, as it would be nice not having wait for my wife as long, between intermissions (man, I’m selfish!).

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Calgary will be at the bottom of the list when it comes to professional sports facilities…places like Regina and Edmonton are soon going to leap frog us not too mention Hamilton, Winnipeg etc….

    Let’s get this built…Murray Edwards and his team are not going to embarrass themselves and be set up for failure…private dollars will be used appropriately…public funding should be used for the portion of the field house (previous foothills plan)…remediation will need to happen regardless so perhaps a shared cost approach…..infrastructure in the surrounding area needs drastic improvement (public dollars)…let’s get behind this and support it going forward!!

  • Greg

    As someone who recently bought a condo near the stampede grounds, my wish list is for some concrete plans on what will happen with the saddledome and development plans around here. All well and good to redevelop the west end, but hopefully it doesn’t leave a blight in the old area.

  • slapshot444

    Dear Murray Edwards…I like what you are about to embark on and your loyalty to sports in Calgary….tread carefully during the next 4 years…with the NDP in power corporations will be taxed to death and will not be able too budget for sponsorships, executive suites and seating throughout the facilities. Hopefully before this project is completed we will have a change of government and optimism with regards to your project will prevail…best of luck and as a Calgarian you certainly have my support…..

    • RedMan

      Do actually think that the new arena won’t have bigger/better washrooms? The Urinals will probably have Oilers and Canucks symbols paint on them, so we can piss all over them.

  • RedMan

    wouldn’t it be cool to add an outdoor skating rink to the new facility, tucked in with the shopping and restaurants that will be part of the facility? it will add to the daily use of the area, and can be used in so many ways for promotions, community support, and a million other things???

    trash for a “NO” vote

    Thumbs up for a “YES” vote

  • RedMan

    The NDP and their supporters have nothing to do with this project! I am most curious to see how city hall twists this project in their favour, because no matter Murray Edwards and the Flames want, it will NOT happen until the city backs it. It sounds to me like the reason it has taking so long is because Nenshi is doing his due diligence to make sure this monumental project is done right.

  • RedMan

    I am actually encouraged by how long the process has taking thus far. It shows diligence and patience, which when undertaking such a massive project, is needed. It is pretty obvious that both sides will reach an agreement that both benefits the team and the city. My only qualm to this point has been the stall tactics and pussy footing towards the fans and media whenever the subject arose. I would rather Ken King just say nothing than “we are mere weeks from giving you (the fans), the info on the project”. After this announcement on Tuesday, which I will be attending, who knows how long we will wait until we hear about the next phase?

  • MorningOwl

    How come so many Calgarians suffer from small man syndrome? I’m not from either city so I’m impartial, but there sure seems to be this odd fascination with people from cowtown bashing Edmonton. I’ve spent plenty of time in both cities, and aside from a more developed downtown in Calgary, there’s really nothing to get excited about. There are plenty of dumpy areas in Calgary, the traffic and city planning is a joke, and the green spaces, river valley and city owned facilities don’t hold a candle to what I’ve seen in Edmonton. Is all this jealousy simply rooted in the fact that Edmonton is the capital and that they have such a rich and superior sporting history? And now the Flames want to copy Edmonton’s Ice district? Cute.