Five further questions about the future of CalgaryNEXT

On Wednesday, the City of Calgary made available their report on their evaluation of the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation’s CalgaryNEXT proposal. The proposed project would provide, among other things, a new home for the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames.

The City’s assessment was, to be charitable, not particularly enthusiastic in regards to the project. In light of the City’s response and the discussion yesterday by City Council, here are five questions we have following the report.

#1: What amount can the City contribute to the project without hindering their ability to do other things?

One of the City’s big objections to the proposal was, when including infrastructure, land costs and remediation, the City would need to pony up in the vicinity of $1.3 billion to make the project a reality. For a mayoral administration that ran on modernizing Calgary’s transportation and transit infrastructure, that’s a gigantic ask – particularly with the City soon to be on the hook for roughly $2.5 billion worth of the Green Line LRT. An ask north of a billion bucks was likely to get a response of “Sorry, too rich for our blood.”

But that begs the question: what could the City comfortably bring to the table if the CSEC revised their ask?

#2: What would $89 million worth of renovations to McMahon Stadium look like (and what would they accomplish)?

In the report, the McMahon Stadium Society’s figure of between $69 and $89 million was used to describe substantial renovations to McMahon Stadium’s facilities that would make a new home for the Stampeders more or less pointless. But the report glosses over somewhat how extensive those renovations would be and what they would accomplish. Heck, Ken King jokingly referred to the renovations on Sportsnet 960 The Fan as “lipstick on a pig.”

The building’s over 50 years old. How much renovating can the structure withstand?

#3: Where in Stampede Park would a new Flames arena fit?

The City’s report recommended that the CSEC break out the arena/event centre component of the NEXT project and discuss possibilities with the Stampede of putting it in Stampede Park. The big question is where the heck would they put it?

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Well, there are two spots where it could fit.

  • One is on the northern end of Stampede Park, on the northeast side of Olympic Way and 11th Avenue SE, in the lands beside the railyards. The land is just sitting there idly right now, and putting the arena complex there would anchor the Stampede Park side south of the tracks the way the National Music Centre building is going to anchor the East Village land north of the tracks.
  • Another option would be to knock down the aging Big Four Building, on the west end of Stampede Park beside 17th Avenue, and placing the new building there. This option would be a bit closer to the LRT, wouldn’t impact parking on the Stampede Grounds and would give them a great excuse to open up the western side of the park on the 17th Avenue side. The Big Four was built in 1959 – yes, it’s older than McMahon – and once the Corral gets absorbed into the BMO Centre when those renovations eventually happen, the Big Four is the obvious odd-building-out.

Imagine a gorgeous building such as Columbus’ Nationwide Arena (shown above) anchoring the west end of the Stampede Grounds and acting as the gateway from the 17th Avenue district into Stampede Park?

#4: How much would tying a new Stampede Park arena into existing infrastructure cost?

The price tag for the infrastructure work in the West Village was pretty steep – in the vicinity of $327 million of roads, utilities and other things necessary to run an actual building. The Stampede Park site has the benefit of having already been developed, more or less, but how much of a savings would that be from the projected West Village number?

#5: What kind of timeline would a new Flames arena in Stampede Park be looking at for completion?

The West Village site would take between 6 and 10 years for land remediation, and then however long for the actual CalgaryNEXT facility to be built. If the Flames and Stampede Park made nice on a building site and plan, when would it be able to open?

For reference, Rogers Place in Edmonton and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas each took about two years from their ground-breaking to be ready to go.

  • Burnward

    I still don’t understand why the Flames would publicly present a plan prior to sitting down with the city to select a site and workable budget.

    This has to be built. Both sides have certainly been planning for this for years.

    Take a week, get down to brass tacks and come together on something prior to random plan unveiling that just works people up.

  • Backburner

    I think knocking down the Big 4 building, encompassing the C-Train station, and acting as the gateway between 17th Ave (Red mile) and Stampede Park makes the most sense to me for ideal location. Talisman is also right there.

    They are going to overhaul Stampede Park anyway, and I see this is having the most benefit for the city and tax payers in the long run.

    I think it would also have the potential to act as a catalyst to clean up and develop Ramsay, which is long over due.. and hopefully branch out to 17th Ave, and McLeod Trail.

    If they re-develop Stampede Park, I don’t see why they wouldn’t have enough room to add the Fieldhouse there as well.. they could always add a few multi-level parkades on the North end by the Train tracks.

    • Primo

      “they could always add a few multi-level parkades on the North end by the Train tracks”….So now you are advocating driving to the game in an area that has full LRT access…that means major upgrade to the infrastructure surrounding Stampede Park…McLeod trail and Spiller Road are simply not big enough to support your few multilevel parkades that will encourage traffic rather than use of LRT….you have created a mess worse than the West End…am awaiting your post to build a new football stadium on Scotsman Hill….hey wait that may not be a bad idea….lol!

      • Backburner

        Yeah.. because nobody drives to Flames games or Stamps games… ever. Because the C-train.

        Definitely don’t need more parking around the Stampede ground that’s for sure.

        What? Parking as means to generate income? pfff. please.

        Hey! why don’t we build a new football stadium on Scotsman Hill.. wherever that is.

        • Primo

          FYI…Scotsman’s Hill is the hill directly east of Stampede park It is part of the Ramsey upgrades you suggest in your note….your not from this area are you? You have been very critical of this project from day 1 but regardless you are entitled to your opinion….I say kudos to Murray Edwards and the ownership group…no matter where this project lands they have created awareness and interest from the city to the point where they are now discussing counter proposals. In the past the city has chosen to ignore the need for an amateur field house, need to infrastructure upgrades at west end as well as stampede park, and contaminated soil in a valuable downtown core area. With a private group confirming interest in upgrading our sports facilities we now have a chance at keeping up with dynamic metropolis’ of Regina and Winnipeg!!

          • Backburner

            I’m critical of the proposal for sure, but for the same reason the city was.

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m for a new arena/fieldhouse, to me it just makes a lot more sense to build it on the Stampede grounds, especially now that:

            1) East Village has been developed.

            2) The new green line is going ahead.

            3) The Stampede board and CMLC are accelerating plans to redevelop Stampede park.

            The Flames would not only get more people on board, but from a planning perspective, it just makes sense.

            Btw, I wasn’t saying that there should be upgrades to Ramsay, rather that with the redevelopment around that area, (including East Village and Inglewood), Ramsay will slowly get transformed from Ghetto, to people investing in it, whether it’s commercial or real estate.

    • CofRed4Life

      I’m not sure I like the idea of a parking structure. Those add a ton of cost. You’re looking at upwards of $20,000 per stall. Having it right by an LRT station is the best bet, which, if it’s built in Stampede Park, it would be.

      • Backburner

        I’m sure it would be built right in front of 17th ave. Both train stations will get a major upgrade.

        As for parking, it not only has to be improved for the Stampede, but also if they build a new arena/fieldhouse, there is just simply not enough parking.

        I’m not saying it’s the easiest to get in and out of the Stampede grounds, especially with lots of traffic, but it has to be available, and it can generate income.

  • wot96

    Any development on the existing grounds of Stampede Park will have some construction and timing challenges. Flames don’t own that land and knocking anything down may result in a loss of income for the existing owner (perhaps for one or two Stampedes, as well) above and beyond the mere loss of the Big Four building.

    Not saying they shouldn’t do it, I just think that factors into the cost of construction.

  • Greg

    Gotta say I think the whole McMahon stadium question is ridiculous. So what if it is “lipstick on a pig”? The entire CFL wouldn’t generate $69-89M in profits in an entire decade, so who cares what the renovations would do? Put the bare minimum in to keep the thing structurally sound, and leave it at that. There’s no economic benefit to do more, and no need either.

    Honestly, this whole “our stadiums/arenas are old and need to be replaced” thing is starting to just sound like someone on minimum wage complaining that they don’t have granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances! Do you really NEED these things? Can you find a way to AFFORD them? No? Oh, I feel so sorry for you, what with all your access to shelter, food, running water, stable electricity, rule of law…

    Our society is so screwed up on priorities sometimes…

    • Primo

      Hey Gregster…have you ever taken a poo in an outhouse at McMahon at -25C that you actually waited 20 minutes in lineup for…while you are sitting on that ice cold toilet seat you are not only missing the 3rd quarter but you are thinking of your friends in Regina and Winnipeg doing the same thing in a warm environment watching highlights on an HD screen directly in front of you in the toilet…enjoy the game on your couch as you usually do and I’ll do my economics beyond the 10 years you suggest in your post…..

      • Greg

        Haha, it has been a while since I’ve poo’d in the cold at McMahon. I admit. But I gotta think you could heat a lot of toilets for $69-89M, and not need to spend $200M+.

        I eagerly await to see your economic models for 10+ years that show the justification to spend that.

        Seriously, not being rhetorical… I really would like to see that.

        • Primo

          Here is my justification to spend that money perhaps not the cost modelling you are anticipating…been watching games/events at McMahon for over 50 years and have seen plenty of lip stick and face lifts and I’m afraid the old gal just is not able to perform anymore…like anything the working parts simply wear out and are not effective. Capital dollars will need to be spent for a new facility at some future point regardless. I can tell you based on my career experience with major projects throwing more dollars at that archaic facility will be a waste of someones hard earned dollars!

          As a Calgarian it’s now time to support a new stadium project that includes U of C amateur sports requirements as well as professional sporting and related city events. Build it and they will come they say will mean comfortable seating and a warm pee/pooh without missing a quarter of the game will be attractive to the paying customer…although millions$ can be saved in capital, operational and infrastructure costs by leveraging all 3 projects (arena, Stadium, field house, restaurants, hotels etc) in one location I understand that at the end of the day it may not be possible. Regardless I am pleased the Flames sports group has stepped up and as I said in an earlier post forced the city to discuss this to the point where actual proposals are/will be reviewed. The city working with private enterprise is a win win for everyone including both amateur, professional sports and city infrastructure needs.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    They need to build a new arena here:,-114.0494738,1004m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

    Between the Dome and 9th Ave.

    This is the obvious place.

    It’s downtown, it’s beside the Stampede grounds, it’s where the new green line of the LRT will run,

    and it is a terribly rundown and derelict area in need of development.

    This will tie right in with the East Village as well.

    No Creosote that I know of either.

    • Backburner

      That seems like the most Central location.. and I think it’s off of the Stampede grounds technically. The city would give them the land I’m sure.

      That seems like a no brainer to me, I wonder what the heck Ken King is thinking.

    • CofRed4Life

      That seems like a great place to put it. I like your thinking.

      My biggest concern would be about construction, and how construction of the green line would affect the amount of space available. I don’t know too much about the green line though, so I’m not sure if that would even be a concern. That being said, that’s one of the better locations available.

  • oddclod

    The NEXT proposal was incredibly underwhelming and poorly marketed, it reeks of a posturing, moreso than a proposal. Why leave a long tenured relationship (stampede grounds) in a premium location unless it became strained and untenable.

    This looks more like an elaborate posturing scheme to do one of two things or both:

    1) get the city to side with the Flames and weigh heavily on the Stampede board for a fair deal which was not being offered at the time. For the stampede board to lose the Flames is like the City losing the franchise to Seattle. If this was simply a shrewd move, I would lean to respecting it over lauding it.

    2) Discern an appetite and investment in a field-house / stamps stadium. Shuffle the deck on a 7-10 year west village remediation and, pull a fieldhouse out of the deck at a different location after the city and population begin discerning the location over the merits of a fieldhouse.

    Murray Edwards and co., don’t care about location, moreover if his group can make hay on one premises.

    If the field-house is a non-starter, the new arena will be built in 2.5 years from that date. Now that the debate from all parties has generated enough wind to fill the hot air balloon, Where it floats is largely due to public opinion as politicians always sway with the sentiments of the general public.

    That said, with the removal of the 80-100 million remediation cost from the price tag, it can now be presented as a cost savings comparatively, and again, another run at a field-house / arena will be made, and this time, with or without a field-house, we will be cutting the ribbon on a new arena in 3 years.

    Trash it. I don’t care, I have observed few original comments on this site that discusses strategy and insights into what may or may not be happening other than opinions and preferences. Regardless, put a time stamp on this discussion and I’m pretty sure I’ll be saying I told you so apart from knowing the closed doors strategy to which there ALWAYS is one in the big leagues of big business.