Ken King: CalgaryNEXT ‘on pause’

It’s no secret that the Calgary Flames want a new building. The Scotiabank Saddledome is getting on in years and next season, when the Detroit Red Wings move into Little Caesars Arena, the ‘Dome will be older than every National Hockey League barn aside from Madison Square Garden (which has been completely renovated several times).

In advance of some expected developments from City Council in the New Year regarding the proposed “Plan B,” an article from Postmedia’s Annalise Klingbeil dropped a rather interesting bombshell: the CalgaryNEXT mega-project is on hold.

“We’re not talking about CalgaryNEXT; we put the pause button on
that,” King, the CEO of the group that owns the Flames, Hitmen,
Roughnecks and Stampeders, told Postmedia in a year-end interview on
Monday. 

Instead, King said the two sides are meeting regularly to discuss a potential event centre in Victoria Park.

The Flames organization has been working on a new home for the hockey team to some extent since 2007, when they commissioned a study looking at their future options. The June 2013 flood that decimated the event level of the Saddledome sent the project into overdrive, and a corporate re-shuffling of the organization later that year freed up Ken King to focus on the arena efforts.

CalgaryNEXT was unveiled in August 2015 and didn’t get the rapturous reaction that some may have expected. Kent Wilson did a great job examining some of the many, many issues with the proposal. The Flames began negotiations with city hall in the fall of 2015 and by the spring, the city concluded that the proposed complex would be really, really expensive to build in the West Village. That was probably the death knell for the project in that form, as much of the discourse has pivoted to a Plan B proposal.

City council is expected to receive a report from administration with an estimated Plan B cost early in 2017. The Plan B site is expected to be in Stampede Park, which would fit in nicely with the Stampede Board’s plans to modernize the park and potentially integrate with both (a) the East Village redevelopment being spear-headed by the City and (b) the Green Line LRT, which is expected to run down 12th Avenue on the north end of Stampede Park.

That said, it’s probably too early to judge whether Plan B is a good plan or not until we are told how much it’ll cost, how long it’ll take, and how much public money will be thrown into it. All we know for sure is that CalgaryNEXT was a big, big ask for public money that went over rather poorly.

  • MontanaMan

    I think Stampede Park was Plan ‘A’ all along, knowing that Calgary Next was far too expensive. King and Flames ownership are dumb like fox. Get it done and move the arena into the 21st century.

  • Just.Visiting

    I always found the West Village location really odd.

    Building on a contaminated site-check;

    Building on what could potentially be a flood plain-check; and

    At a location with traffic congestion and with very limited parking-check.

    Nice looking facility, though, albeit one that will be tough to obtain significant government funding for given current economic conditions.

  • beloch

    CalgaryNEXT was indeed probably never more than a negotiating tactic. King was probably just trying to define the ballpark that “Plan B” negotiations would take place in.

    One thing that is likely to persist in Plan B, but which does not sit well with me, is that King will push the idea of the city “owning” the new arena, while the Flames will lease it and take all revenues from games, concerts, etc.. Effectively, the city gets to own the responsibility but not the profits, just as is the case with the Saddledome.

    If King wants public funding for his new arena, he needs to provide a happy ending for the saddledome. Why on Earth would the city help him build a new arena if his plan for the ‘dome is to just walk away and leave the city as the proud owners of an expensive to maintain facility that nobody is going to use?

  • calgaryfan

    Feel bad for Calgary tax payers having to listen to Ken King trying to talk them into paying for an arena. King is just a fast talking salesman who hides the truth.
    The owners of the Flames are billionaires, looking for a free ride.

    Billionaire owners who should be ashamed of themselves asking for money in this economy.

    • MontanaMan

      How many arenas worldwide were paid for by team owners? And you think Calgary owners should pay 100% for the building. You’re in dream world and clearly not a business person.

      • calgaryfan

        Why should they not pay for the arena and run the Flames like any other business. If you wanted to start a business are the tax payers going to pay your rent or build you a building? Mr. King glosses over the economics and talks about how the owners are trying to help the community with their new building.

        Rogers Arena in Vancouver was privately funded why not Calgary?

        You have no idea who or what I am so keep the personal comments to yourself.

  • dontcryWOLF88

    I can only speak for me, but I dont go to Flames games to stare at fancy lights/displays/flatscreens etc…im completely fine watching hockey in whatever age rink. Im not there for the rink. Besides, the beer prices dont need to get any more stupid.

    All that aside, nothing is going to happen until the economy picks up anyways.

    ..very valid points already brought up about tax payer liabilities for new and old areas already, I wont repeat.

    From a business standpoint for the city, I personally I might be game if some considerable equity in Calgary Sports and Entertainment was involved. Not just revenue sharing. Equity.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    The history of major public works in Canada is taxpayer funded. It’ll be the same with the new Saddledome. Don’t expect any deal to be signed until after the 2017 civic election. Then the Nenshi Gang will stick the taxpayers between the eyes with paying the freight for a building that will make the can in Edmonton look like the Stampede Corral.

  • Every time this subject comes up, I refer people to this video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcwJt4bcnXs&t=12s

    My 2 cents what should happen to the Saddledome after the new rink is built by King and his ownership cronies…
    Existing rink is used as a basement ice surface and lower bowl seating. A floor is installed above to hold 2 ice surfaces with upper bowl seating. That upper level area would be massive and with no ice, could be a great venue for the Stampede to use for conventions, exhibitions, and … indoor motor cross! Yay!