When the puck drops in October, the Calgary Flames will begin their 33rd season in the Scotiabank Saddledome. The season will unfold while the future of the building is openly discussed at Calgary’s City Council, as city administration is concurrently exploring the Calgary NEXT proposal and a Plan B situated in Stampede Park. (Council will hear a report on both options in October and make a recommendation as to what option should be pursued further.)
But as the future of the old barn is debated, it’s worthwhile to figure out what things need to be carried over to whatever the new building will be and what aspects need to be thrown asunder. With that in mind, we’ve been asking around, looking around, and polling people in places like Twitter and Reddit to find out what people love about the Saddledome and what they absolutely loathe about the place.
Here’s what we found out.
One thing that fans seem to love, especially in light of how far-flung arenas are in Ottawa and Arizona, is how centrally-located the Saddledome is. It’s right beside downtown, and fairly easy to access via roads and transit. (Though admittedly the addition of the bike lanes has made approaching Stampede Park via 12th Avenue a bit of a pain, traffic-wise.)
Some Good Food Options!
The Saddledome has a few really great food options: Pocket Dawgs, malts, the infamous ‘Dome beers and nachos among them. These food options are all relatively evenly-distributed throughout the main concourse (and you can get beer and nachos in the satellite concessions up in the press level).
With the exception of the seating in the press level – where fans have to contend with the upper camera bay, railings and the press box itself blocking the Energy Board – there’s not a bad seat in the house. If you’re sitting anywhere in the lower bowl or the upper bowl, you can see every inch of the ice. And even in the press level, aside from a few sections where the views are somewhat blocked, all you’re missing is the Energy Board; you can see the entirety of the ice.
There are several things that scream “Saddledome” to me: the wacky sloping roof, the fire shooting out after goals, the 8-bit cowboy on the Energy Board shouting “Ya-Hoo!”, the old ’80s-style banners hanging above the Flames’ end.
Almost universally, everyone we spoke with had complaints about the concourse. If you’ve been at the building during a Flames game, you’ve probably had to navigate the narrow areas at either end of the ice…and then just as the concourse widens, there’s a car on display. It’s almost as if the building was never designed to be full of people. Multiple concourses would really help alleviate the bottlenecks. Or wider concourses. Or both.
Narrow Food Options!
I love Pocket Dawgs. I love malts. The only places you can get them are on the main concourse. If you’ve wandered the main concourse during intermission, you’ve probably noticed that the most gigantic line-ups are the few spots where you can buy Pocket Dogs and malts. A more diverse, more balanced set of food options would spread the lines out a bit (along with changing the concourses).
It’s probably unrealistic to expect the new building to have more bathrooms, or a disproportionate amount of men’s rooms. But man, lines are pretty bad during intermissions. And the layout of many of the bathrooms are pretty wonky, creating bottlenecks on the way in and out on the main concourse.
[ed. note from Ari – “A disproportionate amount of men’s rooms”? Bro. BRO. Talk to me when the absurd lineups are the status quo everywhere you go.]
Finally, getting out of the various parking facilities in Stampede Park are a bit of a challenge immediately following the game. The problem is made slightly worse with the lack of places to hang out to wait out traffic, though the developments around Stampede Park have started to make that a bit better. Again, like the bathrooms, it’s probably unrealistic to expect an arena located just outside of downtown in a major city to allow 19,000 people to escape all at once without hassle, but it’s one of the most common complaints.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
What do you absolutely love about the Saddledome and want to see in the new building, whenever that happens? And what do you wish they never, ever, ever replicate in the new barn? Sound off in the comments!