Back in August, the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation unveiled their concept for a new arena (for the Calgary Flames, Hitmen and Roughnecks) and combined stadium/fieldhouse (for the Stampeders). The idea was to replace the aging Scotiabank Saddledome and McMahon Stadium with newer facilities, and do to so in a centralized manner in the underutilized West Village area west of downtown.
In early November, City Council set some terms of reference for evaluating the CalgaryNEXT proposal and the city manager’s office got to work on Phase 1 of their evaluation – effectively crunching the basic numbers and seeing how everything shook out. The report was made available today on the City’s website.
In short? (Emphasis added.)
Administration has come to the conclusion that CalgaryNEXT is not feasible in its present form
or location. It is recommended that CSEC be given an opportunity to respond to this report and
that The City and CSEC work together to investigate
potential locations on or near Stampede
Park for an innovative new arena/event centre that
benefits Calgarians. It is also recommended
that Council reconfirm the Foothills Athletic Park
as the preferred location for The City of
Calgary fieldhouse project, and that work continue
with respect to addressing the contamination
issues in West Village.
So what doesn’t the City like about the proposal? We dug into the report to find out.
Here’s the gist of the many, many pages of reports and additional background reports:
- The City accepted the $890 million estimated cost of the facility itself at face value because they noted the designs are currently in the “concept stage.” Meaning it could very well end up costing more, depending on the actual design of the buildings.
- In addition to those costs, the city estimated between $863 and $936 million would be required for “land, municipal infrastructure, environmental remediation, and financing.” (The range is because they investigated two different strategies for creosote remediation.) That would bring the total cost of the whole shebang – assuming that the concept doesn’t become more expensive – at between $1.7 and $1.8 billion. The cost to the City would be between $1.2 and $1.3 billion, depending on how the ticket tax money is financed (and which creosote strategy is used).
- In regards to the remediation two options were presented: an expedited approach and a measured approach. The expedited approach would just dig everything up, clean the whole area and be done with it, costing $140 million but getting everything done in 6-8 years with continuous construction throughout. The measured approach would basically just involve doing the minimal amount of digging required and doing some decontamination on-site, costing $85 million but taking 8-10 years to complete with more of a seasonal approach to construction and development. The report mentioned a few small-scale funding options, but noted that no larger provincial or federal funds have been ear-marked for such a project.
- The combined stadium/fieldhouse concept itself appears to work, but the report mentioned challenges in regards to the Stampeders sharing the facility (and the CFL team eating up a lot of “prime-time hours” in the facility):
the 2015 McMahon Stadium usage
report, the 2015 Stampeders event calendar, and estimates for prime time use, there will be
consumption of prime time hours by the Canadian Football League. In addition, the
CalgaryNEXT concept does not include complementary
outdoor amenities that currently
exist at Foothills Athletic Park, including an outdoor track, rectangular fields and tennis
- It’s noted in the report that further study is needed to determine the compromises and challenges, and that the CSEC indicated they’d be willing to work with the City to mitigate compromises. (In other words, they’d be willing to help make the partnership work.)
- Related: The cost of modernizing McMahon Stadium was estimated at between $69 to $89 million by the McMahon Stadium Society, which would theoretically fix many of the issues with the building and make it usable for another 25-30 years.
- The estimated value of a Community Revitalization Levy for the West Village was given as $345 million without a commercial anchor tenant and $435 million, with the lower figure noted as more likely (and that there was no guarantee that the province would grant a CRL). It was noted in the report that the amounts in the range provided wouldn’t be enough to cover the facility, infrastructure, land remediation and financing, and that the figures were likely subject to a lot of variation due to the real estate and other market forces.
THE MAIN CONCERNS
In closing, the report noted concerns in all of the areas they were asked to investigate, which are generally summarized as follows:
- There will be significant costs incurred by the City to support the facility (and the estimates rely on the assumption that both parts of the facility will never be used at the same time).
- The funding model isn’t fully aligned with the principle that public money should be used for public benefits. (There are some access concerns for the public, in particular related to having the Stampeders use the fieldhouse a lot.)
- In a related concern, feedback from stakeholder groups was “either neutral or unsupportive of the West Village location and/or the incorporated fieldhouse concept.”
- The cost of the proposal would force the City to have to choose between funding this project and other high-priority areas.
- The development time in the West Village is quite long (9-13 years) and dominated by environmental remediation. (This also connects with some of their concerns about CRLs, which are set at 20 years by legislation and might expire if there are any unforeseen delays.)
There’s a certain irony to the concerns, as you have to imagine that the CSEC thought that integrating the components into one building and placing them in the blighted West Village would be seen as a positive. Instead? All of those factors – the location, the contamination, combining facilities – seem to contribute to the City’s issues with the project.
The Impacted Organization analysis identified Stampede Park and surrounding area as a
potential location for a new arena/event centre, due to the existing infrastructure and planned
investment in the area, including the future Green
Line LRT. It is recommended that
Administration work with CSEC and CESL (Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Limited) to investigate the potential for a new arena/event
centre on or near Stampede Park. This work would consider potential funding and operating
models, functional design, urban planning, transportation, parking, utilities, and environmental
matters. It is recommended that Administration investigate potential upgrades to McMahon
Stadium, as well as reconfirm Foothills Athletic Park as the preferred location for The City of
Calgary fieldhouse project. Administration and CMLC
should also continue to work with Alberta
Environment on addressing the contamination issues
associated with the West Village Canada
Creosote site and surrounding areas. An update report on these matters should be presented to
Council no later than 2016 October 30.
What now? Well, City Council will discuss the report at Monday’s regular meeting. Presumably Mayor Nenshi will expand on his remarks, which basically amounted to “here is a report.”
But CalgaryNEXT as proposed by Ken King and cohorts with much fanfare and ballyhoo back in August? It’s probably dead.