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.
CMLC HELPS OUT STAMPEDE BOARD
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.
CORRAL GOING BYE-BYE
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.
CONSULTANTS TO DETERMINE ‘DOME 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.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
In three successive months, the following things have happened:
- CMLC has joined forces with the Stampede Board on their Master Plan.
- The Corral has been given an open-ended (but fairly definitive) expiry date.
- 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.