What’s going on with CalgaryNEXT?

After months of radio silence on the topic, aside from a brief visit from National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman, substantive discussion of the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation’s proposed CalgaryNEXT development will be on the docket next week down at Calgary’s City Council chambers as council finally receives the “next steps” report that they commissioned months ago.

But if you think nothing of note has been going on since late last year, you’ve been missing a couple potentially big developments.


The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation was originally formed a few years ago to shepherd the complex and arduous East Village redevelopment. So far the group’s approach has been well-received, and arguably has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, so in February they signed a memorandum of understanding that will see them help out the Stampede Board with actually executing their Master Plan for Stampede Park.

After years of waiting for development to take off in the area, the
Calgary Municipal Land Corporation and the Calgary Stampede revealed
details Friday of a new memorandum of understanding that will see the
land developer lend its expertise to rejuvenate the Stampede’s master

The agreement sees the CMLC offer its planning and business support
on several key developments in and around the Stampede lands, including
the entertainment zone, extending 17th Avenue into the park, expanding
the BMO Centre convention and trade space, and possibly incorporating
the RiverWalk pathway.

The idea is rather than being a bunch of sequestered parking lots and buildings that occasionally have events, Stampede Park will be more of a year-round entertainment district.


Roughly a month after the CMLC’s involvement in the Stampede master plan was confirmed, the long-rumoured expansion of the BMO Center was confirmed to be resulting in the demise of the aging-but-adored Stampede Corral. Or it will, y’know, when the Stampede gets $500 million to actually go through with it.

The days are numbered for the 66-year-old Stampede Corral because of a
proposed $500-million expansion at Stampede Park that would double the
size of the nearby BMO Centre, officials confirmed yesterday.

The $500 million development would bring thousands of tourists to the
city by transforming the BMO Centre, which is already Calgary’s largest
convention centre, into a much bigger facility with the capacity to
host the world’s largest trade shows.

If the timing of the story seems a bit odd, most likely it bubbled to the surface because of the Calgary Hitmen playing a playoff date in the building leading to questions about its future.


From last week, via the CBC:

The City of Calgary and The Saddledome Foundation are hiring a
consultant to study future uses for the Saddledome should the Calgary
Flames move ahead with plans to build a new arena.

According to a request for proposal, the successful proponent will
deliver a report by October that explores at least four options for
the building — one of which includes tearing down the 1983 facility. 

The final report will include assessing the feasibility of continuing
to operate the Saddledome, repurposing it, decommissioning it or
demolishing the facility altogether.


In three successive months, the following things have happened:

  1. CMLC has joined forces with the Stampede Board on their Master Plan.
  2. The Corral has been given an open-ended (but fairly definitive) expiry date.
  3. The Saddledome’s future has begun to be openly pondered.

If you ask me, it seems apparent that the Stampede Board is preparing for a post-arena future. This is fully speculative, but the moves being made right now appear to be opening chess moves in a match that will finally nail down what Stampede Park will look like in the near future.

The Flames have seemingly been planning their new building for years and years with an end to the saga potentially in sight. With CSEC eyeing a move out of Stampede Park with a project that has no real funding and middling public support, perhaps the Stampede Board is trying to lay out a concrete plan for a park without the hockey club as a primary tenant.

It probably wouldn’t be accurate to say that they’re trying to force the Flames out, but presuming that they’ve been waiting for the Flames to make a move before they nailed down their own future plans, perhaps this is the Stampede Board’s “Enough already, make a decision!” move. My external (and somewhat uninformed) perception has been that Stampede Park has always been the Flames’ long-term Plan B, the proverbial Betty to the West Village’s Veronica – if CalgaryNEXT flames out, maybe they’d try to stick around where they are now.

What these recent moves could mean is the window to get into the long-term Stampede Park plans could be closing, as the CMLC isn’t a group that works slowly once they have a plan (and funding) in place.

  • everton fc

    Hopefully nothing’s going on with CalgaryNext. Our province is reeling. Our economy is fractured. Falling. We need to focus on reality, not the escape of sports, in times like these. We need to create jobs somehow. One could argue CalgaryNext would do just that, but when 1 out of every 5 office spaces downtown is vacant, with no hope of lease, and the cranes are still building out into 2018, with no hope for tenants…

    Makes no sense to build a new arena that may have no fans in the seats, due to no money in their wallets.

    Just my two “loonies”….

    • mattyc

      I definitely won’t support public money for the arena, but having said that:

      – Attendance was pretty good this year, with a crappy team and poor economic environment.

      – Even if they broke ground right now on an arena, it would still take a couple years to be ready for hockey games. I’d think/hope the economic climate will have shifted/improved by then.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      As my buddy the Great Gretzky used to say, “Go where the puck is going, not where it is.”

      If you foresee that in a minimum of 5 years hence the city and province’s economies are still in the dumpster, then your points are valid, and instead of building a new arena, the local and provincial governments will erect billboards on the exits outta here that say, “Will the last person remember to turn off the lights.” But who can accurately predict what happens to the price of oil and gas in the next 5 years. The worst course of action is to do nothing now. At least keep ploughing ahead. Nothing stays static forever. Heck, the Alberta PCs even got turfed.

  • Brent G.

    One thing that is often not talked about is building a new arena on Stampede grounds. This could be done by building on the demolished site of the Corrall or by removing the Big 4 building. Once the new facility is open they could demolish the Dome. One of the biggest advantages is cost savings by not having to clean up a contaminated site and the infrastructure there is obviously good enough to sustain event traffic.

    If the Flames are smart they should look at the recent AB budget and understand their pie in the sky dream facility is unrealistic given the times. If the facility built was only meant to house the hockey team (leaving the field house and football stadium aside) will greatly “reduce” the cost of the project, likely somewhere around $300 million. The Flames could cover those costs entirely by their portion in the proposal. Now that I think about it I wouldn’t be surprised if the initial proposal was meant to do nothing more than anchor the cost conversation when they roll out their real plan.

    Also, I find it hard to believe the Dome will serve a purpose if a new arena is built.

    • I think you missed one of the key points in this post.

      Stampede park wants to knock down the corral and expand BMO centre making it a huge convention space for world class conventions. IF you build a new arena there and use the dome while this happens this eliminates that from happening. I.e. not going to happen. If this was a possibility my guess is a lot of this would have been done sooner through a Stampede Board/Flames CSEC partnership. Split everything 50/50 split all the profits.

      What would have to happen is the Dome would have to be Demolished first THe Flames would have to eat the cost of Tickets and play out of the corral. Once a new faciliy was built then they could demolish the corral and expand BMO centre.

      It’s a semi decent idea if the two can work together. However, that would mean the Stamps dont get their home included and they’d have to build a seperate standalone fieldhouse/stadium somewhere else.

      Kinda is a big point of the whole Flames delaying the proces so long to try and get all of their franchises in one place to save costs and maximize profits.

  • Reidja

    The Saddledome report is the first step in deciding what to do with the $100MM 32 year old building post-Flames. It’s a more than tacit acknowledgment that the Flames will be moving. The Flames have zero plan to stay in the outdated building (by pro-sports standards) and the gloves are going to be dropped on this one soon.

    The fact that Edwards recently moved to the UK could be added as an item to your article Ryan. I’m not sure if he considered the CalgaryNext issue as a factor in his relocation timing, but there is a lot of room for speculation and fist shaking at his decision.

    Tax avoidance by a man who wants tax payers to build him a massive sports temple is abominable. Even as a lifetime fan of the team, I would rather not have a team than put more money in the pocket of that rich swindler.

    • Denscafon

      Completely agree with you about Dodgy Edwards moving to the UK. Completely lost all semblance of loyalty to city and province that made him his fortune. Instead of paying his share in taxes, runs away to the UK and asks Calgary taxpayers to pay for a large portion of the facility.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Totally disagree!

        Dr. Murray Edwards leaving Calgary for the UK is the equivalent of Albert Einstein fleeing Austria and the Nazis for America. Edwards was fleeing the socialists in Edmonton and Ottawa.

        Take heart, just like Einstein helped America build the atomic bomb that would have obliterated the Nazis and their stooges had the Soviets not been so damned capable, Edwards is plotting the downfall of Notley’s Nincompoops and Trudeau’s Terrorists. Edwards is on record as saying that in the next Alberta provincial election and federal election, we the people are going to get the best governments that money can buy, and when that happens, Dr. Edwards will swoop back into Calgary and be given a hero’s welcome just as Charles De Gaulle received on his triumphant return to Paris. Edwards may not be here battling the socialists in street brawls, but be assured that what he is doing now in London will deliver much more than the odd bloody nose or black eye to the socialists. He is going to put the Alberta NDP out of business permanently and consign the federal Liberals to the backbenches for at least the next two generations.

        Dr. Murray Edwards is far from a rat fleeing a sinking ship. The man is a bona fide hero.

        • Big Ell

          So in addition to reading your inane and idiotic hockey opinions we get to read your comments on politics and economics. Great.

          “Trudeau’s terrorists,” give me a break. Especially in a world with real terrorists.

          Also Edwards has an ‘honorary,’ Doctor of laws degree like George Bush, Bill Cosby, Kermit the frog and other rich people get from universities they support financially.

          He doesn’t want to pay taxes and moved his residence because he can. As I imagine you would do if you weren’t busying your self fighting the socialists in the streets. Comparing him to DeGaulle or Einstein …

          Is this Flames Nation or Rebel.media?

          • BlueMoonNigel

            Terrorism comes in many forms, not just political, and they are all equally vile.

            The rules of honorary degrees in Canada permit the individual to be addressed as Doctor.

            Dr. Edwards is trying to right this province and country. I would rather he carry on this fight from afar than to knuckle under and say, “It is just the way it is.” Visionaries like Edwards never accept the way it is when they know they can do better.

  • Greatsave

    I understand that the province is going through a rough time right now economically, not to mention the weak Canadian dollar, but has it been examined anywhere whether building a new arena in the current state of the economy will cost more or less than waiting until the economy recovers? I’m no economist, but my impression is that things (labour/material etc. in this case) generally cost more in a booming economy?

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    It is prudent of the city to cover its bases and have some options.

    Once there is a new arena in town, I think the value of the Dome is mostly in the land. Having it serve the purpose that the Corral has since 1983 would be grossly under utilizing the land. Tear it down and make something new – once there is a new arena.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Well this is a breath of fresh air after the nonsense CalgaryNEXT has been.

    “Run 17th ave into the Stampede grounds, and turn it into a year-round entertainment district” sounds shockingly straightforward and realistic.

  • MontanaMan

    There’s the new buried LRT line with a price tag of $2 billion or the new library with a cost of $250 million that don’t seem to get the same attention. Yes, one is an arena for pro athletes and entertainers but I’d venture to say that with hundreds of dates per year, more people will use the arena than the library.

      • MontanaMan

        I’m saying 99% of the people on this board will spend more time in the new arena than in the new downtown library. I have seen the current library in all hours and it’s a ghost town. This isn’t a negative comment about libraries but it’s interesting when there’s no debate about things like libraries or public art (don’t get me started) but the same tax dollars shouldn’t go towards sports or entertainment that many people will benefit from.

    • mattyc

      Even if that were true, LRT tickets and library fees are cycled back in to subsidize or fund those venues. Not surprisingly, the Flames aren’t interested in having that conversation with the city.

  • nikkomsgb

    The existing CRL that was used for East Village will likely push stampede park way down the list of potential sites.

    When East Village was planned and the CRL proposed, they drew the boundaries for it to include the stampede park. So essentially there is no government money to be used there.

    I’m not proposing the need for government funds, but lets be honest….they will try a few different avenues to get some before they look at anything else.

    Something will eventually get done, they just need to get past this west village idea. It’s an amazing piece of property, that needs developing… but the bill to clean it us will be too high and complicate things too much. It’s just a shame the downtown is already so built-up, there really is no unencumbered plot of land suitable for a new arena.

  • The Fall

    I love the Saddledome on the sky line. I would suggest dismantling the stadium while keeping the roof intact. It can be a covered, open air space for Stampede and community activities and while retaining the iconic shape in the city.

    • Matty Franchise Jr

      That’s an interesting and creative idea. I had to trash it though, because I’ll be glad when that saddle sore on the sky line is gone. Pun totally intended.

  • Parallex

    When is the environmental assessment due again? Really nothing can (or should) happen with the proposal until the assessment (complete with projected cost and timeline for remediation) is done.

  • RickT

    Of course the Flames have explored Stampede Park as an option – but where do you put the new building? You could tear down the Big Four – but that is Stampede-owned. So, when you do that, I would expect that the Stampede would be looking for a replacement in that exhibition space (a huge money generator for the Stampede ).

    You could tear down the Dome, that might open up enough area to put the new arena there and in some of the North parking lots. But how upset would people be (not to mention I am pretty sure neither the Stampede nor the Flames own the Dome, last I heard it was owned by the city and the CSEC was just the ones managing the building).

    Regarding the tearing out of the Dome to have the roof left as a marker for the skyline, understand, of course, that the roof is made of concrete. It requires the entirety of the existing dome structure to support itself. There are time in the winter, when the snow is heavy, that it gets a little precarious. It’s one of the reasons some of the bigger acts cannot come here, the roof just cannot support the system they want to suspend.

    Absolutely the cost of the building will be cheaper right now than it will be when the economy recovers. However, that does not mean that tax payer money should go in to it, nor should we rush construction without making sure there is a deal in place that does not hose the citizens of Calgary. Murray Edwards has run off to England to keep his money for himself. If the Flames want to play in a new arena, I sincerely hope the tax savings helps Edwards (so he can foot the bill, the greedy ….)

  • cunning_linguist

    They can do whatever they want, just no public funding. No more spending. It’s going to be hard enough to pay back the debt bill the NDP is racking up.

  • beloch

    Perhaps CalgaryNEXT should be built on the current site of McMahon stadium.

    • There’s enough room for a combined sports complex there. Seriously, McMahon stadium is a tiny speck in a sea of parking lot. There’s a useless baseball stadium there that could probably stand to be knocked down too.
    • The stadium has zero historical or aesthetic significance.
    • The location is next to a LRT station, although it might be wise to build the complex closer (over the existing parking lot) and move parking to the other side.
    • By building next to Crowchild, there is the potential to leave McMahon standing during construction for a graceful transition, although parking would be an issue.
    • There is zero purpose for McMahon stadium to exist after an alternative location for Stampeders games is built.
    • King and Co. already own the land, so there’s no need for taxpayer handouts for that part of it, at the very least. (Edit: Per Dougie & The Fro, this is the UofC’s land. That’s good. See comment below)
    • Matty Franchise Jr

      I like it! Give the City an excuse to upgrade that part of Crowchild Tr too.

      I thought the Uni owned that land? Did I just miss that CSEC bought it from them?

      • beloch

        You’re right about the UofC owning that land. Good catch! I see this as a good thing, since building CalgaryNEXT there would probably mean more money for the University. King and Co no doubt would prefer to get out of whatever deal they have with the U, but if they’re not paying for the complex themselves I don’t see any reason why they should have the last word on where it’s built.

        • Robear

          While it might sound like a good thing, my understanding is that the UofC is not interested in a redevelopment of that nature (mostly from the capital they would be required to inject) and they have full control of the land and spin off sales (which the Flames dont like Im sure).

          Most modern sports corporations are looking to capitalize on multiple revenue streams, given the nominal pay back on ownership (at least for any franchise that doesnt rhyme with “thiefs”).

    • The GREAT Walter White

      I thought the U of C owned McMahon, no?

      I don’t know why everyone is so against spending public money for this arena?

      You are the same sheeple who voted in Justin who put us $30 billion deeper in debt and the provincial NDP for another $10 billion.

      This country and province are being run like a bunch of drunken sailors would…..why should the city be different?

      Spend away; borrow, borrow, borrow, it’s not our money anyway….


      • RickT


        This must be an elaborate troll job, however, I will bite. I should not have to spell this out, but cities and provinces and countries are all run differently. The deficits the province and the feds are running is meant to support public infrastructure that will have a benefit to everyone. See all the criticism of Calgary NEXT and how the government spending only supports a very limited few (in particular, the ownership).

        (and that is all whether or not you support those particular parties, however, a quick read up on Keynesian economics explains it all pretty thoroughly, and this article does a pretty good job (however positive it may be towards our Liberal Feds) http://qz.com/662382/sadly-the-last-hope-for-the-global-economy-is-now-canada/)

        However, literally any study that is more than just ownership saying something, but an actual, in depth study, demonstrates that there is no net gain for spending tax payer money on a sports team.

        • Robear

          Not sure I understand the general angst around the “public money” aspect associated with the Calgary Next initiative.

          Unless I missed something, I dont think there is much “public” money.

          My understanding was that there were a couple types of funding associated with this proposal, with aspects of “public” contribution.

          1 – a facility charge included ontop of all future ticket costs (Flames, Stamps, concerts etc)

          2 – a loan from the City/Province/Feds for the purpose of construction. This loan would be paid back using the facility charge from ticket sales from hosted events (see #1 above)

          3 – co funding of the facility (by the City/province) with the assumed inclusion of the field house facilities in the construction, and public access to those facilities

          4 – the land associated with the West Village

          #1 is a user pay fee
          #2 is a loan and (by definition) is not a grant or hand out
          #3 represents funds that have already been ear marked for the City for a field house
          #4 could be considered public money… except its currently contaminated land and has a Significant Negative value to the City due to the remediation liability associated with the contamination.

          I guess the loan could be construed as public money, if it was on terms that are significantly better than those commonly available to the public, but that seems a bit of a stretch.

          Basically its proposed to be a user-paid facility built using a government LOAN on currently un-useable land with the added benefit of housing a field house that the City has been wanting to build for the past decade.

          Not getting it.

          • piscera.infada

            Even if we take your premises as grounded–which they aren’t–there would be a lot more “public money” going to this project including, but not anywhere near limited to:

            #4 – re-mediation of the contaminated site, before apparently “giving it away” to CSEC.

            #5 – much needed infrastructure upgrades to Crowchild Trail, Bow Trail, and 14th Street, as a requisite for the project to even have a popsicle’s chance in hell of being successful.

            Factor in any of a multitude of contingencies that are possible with a project of this magnitude, and the simple fact that CSEC has not earmarked where those fund might come from, and you have a very real funding mess.

            Not to mention your “LOAN” argument 1) completely belies knowledge of how a CRL works–which is the component I’m assuming you are referring to with the “loan”– and, 2) that the CRL component and the “ticket tax” component are completely separate (at least as currently proposed). As such, sure, there are two loans, which now cover half of the proposed cost of the project, plus the “field house component”, plus re-mediation, plus the required infrastructure, et cetera, ad nausea.

            Also, let’s all acknowledge the truth that a new arena being a “city asset” is actually a negative. It is in no identifiable way a positive part of this.

          • RickT

            ‘The organization would fund $200 million of its own funds, while the city would also provide $200 million to fund the field house. $240 million would be funded via the city’s Community Revitalization Levy program, and $250 million would be through a ticket surcharge on events held at the two facilities’

            The only loan is the 250m. The CRL is not a loan, it’s a grant.

            Plus, the environmental cleanup (300 – 500m estimates, with people predicting much, much more than that)

            Plus, infrastructure in terms of water / sewage, etc.

            Plus, infrastructure such as the roads increasing the capacity for traffic.

          • Robear

            I should preface my (admiteedly) rambling reply by saying that I see the current plan being a step in the negotiation from the Flames org.
            I understand that public funds paid into sports teams only see a net benefit to the region in VERY rare circumstances, so I expect the Flames to give more than they have so far.

            True, I’d forgotten about the CRL. That does up the public ante.

            Having said that, my understanding is that the CRL is intended to offset developments in problem areas by providing grants to offset changes to local infrastructure (such as water sewage, roads, offramps etc.). As such it would be made available to anyone willing to re-develop the West Village. As such inclusion of this money is a bit of a wash, as it would go to some developer anyway.

            And having lived in Calgary and specifically tried to use the Crowfoot/Bow/12th/11th Ave interchange over the years, I would be in favour of ANY improvements to that dog’s breakfast! I still maintain that some junior engineer in the late 70s was tasked with merging 3 major transit corridors and a river crossing all inside 500 m. Setup to fail me thinks?

            I would also disagree with some of the environmental cleanup numbers being bandied about. Its a very challenging technical contamination, but $300-$500MM is way more than I’d expect would be required to make that land useable.
            Much of the local contamination (in the footprint of the development) would likely be extracted during the construction of the geotechnical supports for the facility (footings and/or pilings). The remaining non-local impacts are so intractable and widespread that they will require some sort of long term low impact management strategy to mitigate (likely some sort of semi-useless pump and treat system).

            Regardless, my gently rambling point is that the West Village is un-useable with the existing contamination. Subsidizing remediation of that contamination for the purposed of a brown field development would make valuable land useful again and at the same time help reduce the foot print of the contamination. As it stands currently some of that contamination leaks into the river constantly!

            Additionally, the remediation shouldnt have to be all footed by the City. The previous owner (Domtar I believe?) should be made to foot at least SOME of the bill.
            Failing Domtar cash, the Federal government has programs specifically intended to also help with brown field development of contaminated property.

            I know that constitutes another injection of public money, but I firmly believe that getting this contamination even partially cleaned up is a good thing for the City and the Bow river.

            Finally, if we are going to get a new arena complex built, it strkes me that doing so during a downturn when the economy is reeling, and costs are lower, this would be a good time.

  • Matty Franchise Jr

    Other than a commemorative exhibition game right before demolition, the Flames will never play in the Corral again. The NHL would never allow one of its franchises to play in that ancient facility. Especially not in the playoffs, which will totally be happening every year by then.

    A new arena will be up an running before the Flames vacate the Dome.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    The drumbeat for a new arena will become a thunderous pound when they open that new barn in Edmonton in the fall because of all the inevitable comparisons between it and the old Saddledome. Expect a PR blitz and barrage at that time by CalgaryNext as it tries to shame Calgary politicians (civic, provincial and federal), business leaders, the local media and the slob on the street how so last century the Dome is. Can’t wait for Kid Matthews to make his first visit to the Dome as a member of the Leafs and decry the Dome as being as dingy and decrepit as the arena he played pee wee in or Prybyl likening it to the long-moth-balled Chernobyl Sporta Stadiuminzka. Dome is going to become a laughing stock this fall and you know CalgaryNext will be spearheading the attack.

  • Parallex



    Metro Calgary ‏@metrocalgary 7m7 minutes ago
    BREAKING: City’s review of #CalgaryNext project shows costs will double w/ land, infrastructure, remediation and financing. Up to 1.83B #yyc

    Metro Calgary ‏@metrocalgary 6m6 minutes ago
    It’s expected that the clean up of creosote site for #CalgaryNEXT will be $85M to $140M, According to the report. #yyc

    Metro Calgary ‏@metrocalgary 6m6 minutes ago
    “Administration has come to the conclusion that the #CalgaryNext is not feasible in its present form or location,” report states. #yyc

    $1,830,000,000.00… yeah… how about no.

        • BlueMoonNigel

          It’s not about you. It’s about denying the kids in this city a chance to see one of rocks legendary bands and its larger-than-life frontman. How good does it feel to tell the girls and boys of this city that their town isn’t good enough to host Crue?

          • piscera.infada

            How good does it feel to tell the girls and boys of this city that their town isn’t good enough to host Crue?

            Pretty good actually. Maybe they can listen to real music, not over-priced garbage to support the lead singer’s numerous heroin relapses.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    ROCKTOBER in Canada without a new barn in Calgary.

    Taylor Swift @ Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

    Bruno Mars @ Rogers Place in Edmonton.

    Bon Jovi @ the MTS Centre in Winnipeg

    Fallout Boy @ Sask Place in Saskatoon

    Doug and the Slugs, featuring Tim, their original roadie @ Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary