Why calgaryNEXT Has To Be In West Village

I have to admit, my first thought when the vaunted CalgaryNEXT plans were shared with the world had nothing to do with finances. Heck, they barely had anything to do with the plans themselves.

As somebody who is set in their ways and doesn’t like change, my first thought was Why do they have to leave Stampede Park? While hardly perfect, like many Calgarians I have grown to love Stampede Park as the hub of sports and entertainment activity in the city. So why couldn’t the Flames organization figure out a way to stay in the same general vicinity that they’ve always been?

Well, after doing some digging, my conclusion is that it just didn’t fit their wants, needs or desires.

WANTS AND NEEDS

McMahon Stadium opened in 1960. The Saddledome opened in 1983. Both are showing their age, and both are comparably inadequate facilities compared to the other buildings in their leagues. Based on the life-spans of similar buildings and their ages compared to their counterparts, both are near (or past) the end of their life-span and it’s probably cost-prohibitive to keep things status quo.

Based on the organization’s operations (they own four teams and share some staff) and a desire to keep costs of replacing the two buildings at a minimum, it’s probably easiest – if we presume both buildings need to be replaced – if the two buildings are built together in a complex. And given the difficulties we’ve seen in Phoenix and Ottawa, downtown buildings are probably the way to go – ideally with public transit options available.

Based upon those premises, there are basically two possible spots: Stampede Park and the West Village.

FITTING THEM IN

The CalgaryNEXT website has this fancy drawing with the footprint of the proposed new facility. For the sake of making comparisons between the West Village space and Stampede Park, I approximated it with a wonderfully high-tech red rectangle.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 11.14.53 PM

Here’s the same rectangle, plopped down into Stampede Park and rotated. I’m operating under my presumption that they’d want to retain the BMO Centre and everything on that north end of the park, so the logical thing to axe would be the Big Four Building.

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 11.15.10 PM

It doesn’t quite fit, and is a bit too tight with Weadickville (on the north) and the river (on the south) for my comfort. There’s a bit more space further south and east towards the Elbow River, but we’ll get into why that’s probably not an option – aside from the presence of the Grandstand and the chuckwagon course – in a little bit.

Advantage: West Village

PARKING

This is arguably Stampede Park’s biggest strength. See the above map? See all the wide open spaces? The majority of them are parking lots. According to the Calgary Herald, the Saddledome’s present location features 4,000 parking stalls – presumably including the parkade behind the building. Even if you plop a building down in one of the blank spots on the map, it’d only knock out a few hundred parking spaces – maybe a thousand, tops.

According to the calgaryNEXT website, there are roughly 1,500 parking spots planned for that project. One the one hand, the layout for the West Village doesn’t really lend itself to the types of parking options you see in Stampede Park. But given that you’ll have 19,000 and 30,000 fans attending hockey and football games (respectively), having fewer parking spots seems like a weird idea.

Advantage: Stampede Park

TRANSIT ACCESS

Stampede Park is technically closer to more stops, with the main Victoria Park LRT station connected to the ‘Dome via +15 walkways and the Erlton station located to the south. Granted, Erlton’s a bit of a hike from the south end of Stampede Park, but it’s not horrible. And when you’re daunted by the number of people at Victoria Park station after a game and don’t feel like waiting it out to get on the train, it’s actually not that far of a walk up north to City Hall station, where you can pick and choose between trains going in any direction you choose. Because of the proximity to Macleod, there’s a decent amount of different bus options, too.

Now, the Sunalta LRT in the West Village is likely much closer to the proposed new arena/stadium site than Victoria Park station is to the Saddledome. Granted, it’s weirdly elevated, but it’s in a good spot. However, let’s presume that station gets all backed up – as Victoria Park does after games. Fans would need to hike back into downtown, past the Kerby Centre station all the way down to 8th Street station in order to avoid the bottleneck (or to get to a north-bound train). The bus options in the west end of downtown aren’t great yet. You could charitably call the West Village under-developed for transit options right now.

Advantage: Stampede Park

TRAFFIC FLOW

You can approach Stampede Park from the South on Macleod and the West on 12th Avenue, and from the East via Inglewood and the North via a few roads that feed into Olympic Way. Traffic becomes a nightmare on the way in and out, though, and there’s been a ton of construction lately which backs the whole thing up. (And the bike lanes don’t help.)

With the West Village you can only really enter from Bow Trail from the east or 9th Avenue (via Bow Trail) from the west. from either direction. There’s a few different north/south approaches (such as 14th Street and Crowchild Trail), but they all flow into the same basic east/west flow.

Neither are amazing, but without significant road work, the West Village is much more congested than Stampede Park. Add in the lack of parking options in the West Village plan right now, and things bunch up pretty badly.

Advantage: Stampede Park

FLOODING CONCERNS

I’m not an expert, but I’ll take their word for it – it’s images from the province’s flood plans. But when you consider the absolute nightmare of a year the Flames had in terms of logistics when they moved heaven and Earth to get the Saddledome up and running after the flood. If you can’t put the arena/stadium complex on the west side of Stampede Park beside 17th Avenue, you almost have to abandon that location as a site because of the flooding possibilities on the eastern slopes.

Sure, you could divide up the buildings and put the new arena where the Big Four is and put the stadium/fieldhouse where the Grandstand and chuckwagon course are – presuming you can find alternate venues for the rodeo and chucks – but even then, the risk of one of these big, shiny, expensive buildings flooding is enough to probably scare designers into favouring the West Village and it’s lower flood risk.

Advantage: West Village

SUM IT UP

The West Village is the only suitable place for the new Flames building if you accept three basic and fundamental premises:

  1. The Saddledome and McMahon are both past their suitable life-spans and should be replaced.
  2. In order to minimize footprint, costs, and to maximize efficiencies, the new buildings should be combined.
  3. The new facilities should be transit-adjacent and as close to downtown as possible.

Even though Stampede Park is better suited to the type of vehicle and human traffic that would follow along with the new developments, the combination of higher flood risk at that location and the seeming necessity to place both structures together effectively cements the West Village as the better fit.

Granted, neither option is close to perfect, but the West Village – expensive creosote contamination and all – suits the needs of the proposed project better than Stampede Park does.

    • RedMan

      I said this in the other thread, but there are other locations that just makes way more sense than west village. Railtown is better option as the city is planning on building a green line station around 4th ave already. They could plan to put it inside the sports complex since its pretty much a blank canvas there.

      Fire park could be another location that is just outside downtown that could work.

      The main reason why the flames want to build in west village is so they can take all the crl loan money for the sports complex which makes no sense for the city as half of the land that would be taxed is non taxable due to the sports complex being “city owned”. Flames won’t even mention the need for road realignment in west village as well as they know it will cost another couple hundred million.

    • RedMan

      I agree with your assessment that West Village is a better option than Stampede Park. That said I’m thinking either Foothills Park or the Cross Iron Mills area would be better, with the later a potential entertainment mega-complex including other things already there.

      I’m not so sure what the fuss is with being Downtown, its pretty crowded there already and why not spread the wealth, so to speak into a new district? In any case those spots seem to have been dismissed out of hand so we’ll see how things develop with the current proposal…..

      • piscera.infada

        It’s pretty widely accepted that “sports complexes” need to be at the very least close to the core to be fully accessible and thus successful.

      • Derzie

        Your not sure about the fuss with being downtown??? Foothills park or Cross Iron Mills??? You lack business acumen and do not have any sense for what it takes to be successful with a project of this magnitude…..

        • Derzie

          Well since McMahon is in Foothills athletic park and has done just fine for 50+ years and average attendance in the 30,000 range, I’m pretty sure upgrading with a new stadium there will do just fine (notwithstanding University issues), your personal attack aside.

          And though I agree there are lots of advantages to being near-downtown (if you have a good site), there are numerous very successful stadiums and facilities out there quite distant from downtown cores.

          Personally I have been to both McMahon and the Saddledome numerous times and have driven there or taken transit every time. Getting in and out of the Saddledome by driving is a pain and I expect the West Village site could be better, but not unless there is mega road/interchange/bridge-building done.

          There is no perfect site, and compromises will need to be made. The money should not be the driving issue, as the Flames could pay for it all if they really wanted it, and there are examples of just that (e.g. Boston).

          In any case, this article is a bit strange, as others have pointed out. Most of the checks are towards the Stampede location, but the final “Has to be…” is West Village. Not consistent.

    • Would CalgaryNEXT fit into the space occupied by Foothills and McMahon along Crowchild Trail I’d those stadiums were demolished? The location has no flood issues, is LRT accessible and isnt very far from downtown.

      • piscera.infada

        Where would you play the Stamps for 2 or more years while it’s all being built? There’s no place that could house a Stamps home game in the city, is there?

        I mean, I guess you could move them to Fort McMurray for a few years, but you’re losing a good deal of revenue in doing that.

        Add to that, the fact that the Dino’s also use that space…

        I’d be intrigued by the idea of using that area, but I’m not sure it’s doable.

        • Derzie

          Demolish the baseball complex and put the field house up. Once that is in place take down Mcmahon and put the arena in.

          EXCEPT that this land is largely owned by the University, which means revenue sharing. Oops.

          The complex can work there but not on a basis that CSEC finds appealing, or possibly, necessary.

          • Derzie

            I hope someone will add a diagram of Calgarynext on the Stadium site as well firestone site. I like the idea of tearing down the underused baseball stadium and the tracks and build the Filed house first and then the arena. For those who think it has to be downtown the Stadium site is 5 stops on the ctrain and way easier to get to by car. I suspect that most fans go home collect their kids/spouses and then go to game.

            Why I like the stadium site; outside of the floodplain, close to downtown, and already an established venue. Landswaps are not unusual.

      • piscera.infada

        Expand your horizons and look beyond Calgary. Building facilities of this nature outside of the downtown area are a recipe for failure. You need to build these facilities in proximity and convenience to your highest paying customers….the downtown executives who spend zillions of $$ on suites, entertainment, sponsorships, etc etc. You also lose $200M on the on the cpl fund that qualifies only for West Village….

    • Derzie

      “The Saddledome and McMahon are both past their suitable life-spans and should be replaced.”

      What are the points that back this up? Being old is not a reason. Problems that can be addressed by renovation is not a reason.It feels like the disposable society idiom is being applied here. Why do we get new phones when the old one is perfectly fine? Because we are brainwashed and pressured into it. Same with the arenas. They work and fans are happy to enjoy the events. No need for a new arena just because Edmonton and others are doing it. Lead, not follow is what I favour. Less expensive.

        • piscera.infada

          That’s funny. I was at Mosaic on Saturday for the Stamps game. That stadium really (and I mean really) makes you appreciate McMahon. That said, their opening a new stadium there in 2017–although their entire franchise is publicly owned, so it’s a little different.

          The reality is, a new stadium for the Stamps is necessary–that place is a straight gongshow (Mosaic notwithstanding). While I have a nostalgic feel about the ‘Dome, it too should be replaced. The kind of upgrades the Saddledome would need to satiate the “modern” sports fan aren’t even possible (ie. expanded lower bowl, bigger concessions, more washrooms…).

          The one thing I will say though, is the parking issue doesn’t bug me. Many of the new arenas don’t have a great deal of accessible parking–Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Winnipeg… I also never drive to the games, because shelling out 10 bucks to park my car, on top of 8 bucks a beer, 7 dollar hot dogs, and 100++ dollar tickets just seems like a little too much to ask (but that’s just me).

          I still don’t agree with the “proposal”, or “first draft”, or whatever, at all.

          • Derzie

            “The reality is, a new stadium for the Stamps is necessary–that place is a straight gongshow (Mosaic notwithstanding). While I have a nostalgic feel about the ‘Dome, it too should be replaced. The kind of upgrades the Saddledome would need to satiate the “modern” sports fan aren’t even possible (ie. expanded lower bowl, bigger concessions, more washrooms…).”

            CSEC is all about revenue per square foot. Of your examples, only one is in the best interest of the the owners: expanded lower bowl = more premium ticket money (same distance from the ice but LOWER BOWL(!). Bigger concessions implies less time spent in lineups where in reality (as we’ve seen at the dome) it means more space used for the seller and less for the buyers. Again, a new arena may not help with this. Lastly, we all know washrooms are not a revenue generator so they will be as small as they can get away with.
            My general advice is watch the games. Less time searching for and purging food and drink and more time watching the ice. The dome supports that endeavor in spades.

        • ngthagg

          This is the biggest question that needs to be answered: why build a new arena at all? And when the best answer from supporters is “Duh, of COURSE we need a new arena”, I’m not convinced.

    • Derzie

      The article does not demonstrate in any way why it HAS to be in the West Village as per the title, only that it is, arguably, better suited there than in the Stampede park. NE and S transit lines could be extended to service a venue on the edge of the city. Foothills and a number of other locations are reasonable alternatives. In no way does this project HAVE to be in W Village anymore than it mustn’t be anywhere else.

      • Greg

        Actually, I don’t see how it even argues that West Village is preferable. I see a lot of:

        – winner: stampede
        – winner: stampede

        – conclusion: “west village!!!”

        Feels like the South Park Underpants Gnomes Logic.

        One of the few points west village does win is flooding, which has been an issue exactly once in the 30 years since the saddledome was built. The other is the current proposed configuration (ie rectangle) fits better in West Village, but who said that’s the only possible configuration?

        If you want to revitalize the area, do something with high density residential-mixed used, not massive facilities that will be largely vacant for all but 3-4 hours, maybe 100 days a year. Plus no one seems concerned with leaving behind a vacant blight in the stampede grounds that will immediately require some grand revitalization scheme as well.

        I want a new stadium. I think it will be cool. But clearly the discussion of the need for it or the location of it, let alone the financing of it, is not going to be very fact-based or logical.

    • loudogYYC

      Unless you want a commuter arena like in Kanata or Glendale, these buildings have to be near the core and well connected to mass transit. There’s a reason the Senators are trying to move out after less than 20 years..

      Realistically the East Village would have been a great location for the new complex but it wasn’t in the cards at the time and the city probably wanted to try out the first CRL on their own anyway.

      The trick to making the West Village work will be efficiently incorporating the land west of Bow Trail where the Pumphouse & Renfrew Chrysler are right now, so unless they make a short tunnel for Bow Trail in that stretch, it’ll be tough to incorporate that land.

      If they can somehow find a way to clean up the contamination and sink Bow Trail underground then they have all the room they need for the whole work, live, play concept. It’s probably just a pipe dream, but it would be pretty difficult to keep the Pumphouse area pedestrian with a busy road separating it from the core.

    • beloch

      The West village area is in a flood area, just one that’s less vulnerable than the Saddledome’s site. Some have pegged the 2013 flood as a once in 45 year event, while others put it closer to once in a century event. With climate change having an unknown impact on flooding, I wouldn’t want to bet a lot of money on the West village never flooding in the life of these new facilities.

      So what does that mean? CalgaryNext doesn’t have to be “flood proofed” with massive berns, etc.. If the structure can be flooded without structural damage that’s probably good enough. They will still need to be thoroughly cleaned out after a flood, like the Saddledome, but that’s probably a lot cheaper than keeping the water out entirely.

      Some insist that the only thing that should be built in the West village area is green-space, but it’s going to be pretty hard to round up the funds to deal with the creosote contamination in that area for a park.

      Just make sure the city, in it’s role as “owner” (big airquotes there), isn’t on the hook for the clean-up.

    • slapshot444

      Railtown or over the Calgary transit bus barn looks to be better than either the West Village or the Stampede Park especially with the new c-train green line.

      At that location the Flames don’t have to deal with the Stampede board as much, better access to transit, more parking and closer to the North/South train line.

      Could move the bus barn to the west village as it might be a parking/green-space development only type of location and I really do not want to risk the West Village success coming through the cannibalizing of some other downtown neighborhood

    • The GREAT Walter White

      When I read posts/articles about the Saddledome not having enough lower bowl seating or enough luxury boxes, I can’t help but think; the only people who care about this are the owners who think they can make more money with a new arena.

      So pay for the new arena yourself….

      (If the worlds greatest Flames fan thinks this proposal is crap, you know there are big issues).

      WW

    • MontanaMan

      Proposals like Fire Park, Foothills Industrial or Cross Iron Mills are ridiculous. Who wants to take a client or spouse out for dinner and a game in Foothills Industrial or worse yet, Balzac. Kanata is a joke and like some of the suggestions, there is no light rail transit and the commute is a joke. The partnership will look to create an “arena district” with shopping, dining and the arena. The idea is not to drive to Balzac in -40 to watch the game and drive home. The revitilization of west village is important as it’s currently a dump. And the area considered for the arena didn’t come close to flooding two years ago and although it may be in the flood area, if it didn’t flood during the last one we should be pretty safe.

      • ChinookArchYYC

        Firestone Park is less than 6.5 KM from the Calgary Tower. Walking distance from the LRT line. Located between major arteries of memorial drive, Barlow trail and Deerfoot trial. I agree that sites way outside the core are not a good idea, but Firestone Park is clearly not an issue from a proximity standpoint.

    • MontanaMan

      Stampede park would not be eligible for crl tax subsidy…Edwards and friends would be missing out on 300 million in their oiginal funding plan. That is why they prefer the West Village ..contamination be dammed

    • MontanaMan

      Ken King is on 960 right now taking questions all morning on Calgary Next, none of you haters that have been talking smack about this on the internet are calling him out on the radio…shocking

      • piscera.infada

        Actually, people have asked questions that are pointed towards the actual issues people do have with this project. What do they get from Ken King? Platitudes and niceties.

        Look, the people who are building a project like this aren’t going to come out and say “we’re trying to bend the city over a barrel”.

        Take for example, his answer about the benefits to the city of owning the depreciating asset: “we think it’s only fair, if we’re asking the city to pay for it”, “it’s the right thing to do”. That doesn’t answer the question, and it makes no sense.

      • Derzie

        I suspect that they pre-screen the calls. They probably are asked to preview their question ahead of time to try to avoid on air trolling or swearing. I am hoping the Fan960 gets Nenshi on using the same format.

      • Derzie

        Some of us work, are traveling on business (like me) or have some other reason that means we just don’t have time to call into the Fan960..

        I suspect many of the fans here would like very much to call out King. But…what is the point? He is a spin doctor and doesn’t have answers anyway.

        So take your your criticism and blow it out your shorts.

    • piscera.infada

      Derzie wrote:

      My general advice is watch the games. Less time searching for and purging food and drink and more time watching the ice. The dome supports that endeavor in spades.

      That’s all fine (and I personally agree with you on that), but the majority of fans are looking for an experience more than simply watching a hockey game. Sure, we (on this site) might be the ‘enlightened minority’ in that regard, but it’s not reality for the lay-sportsfan.

      As I’ve said numerous times, I don’t agree with the proposal, but simply saying “the ‘Dome is fine, McMahon is fine, because I can watch a game there” belies the entire argument. I can go to Cardel Place and watch a minor hockey game, just as I go to Max Bell and watch good junior hockey regularly. That’s not the point though, is it?