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No new arena wouldn’t sink the Olympic bid, but it wouldn’t help

This past weekend featured the annual National Hockey League All-Star Game in Tampa Bay. One of the things that fans have come to expect from the All-Star Game is a one-on-one chat between legendary broadcaster Ron MacLean and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Since Bettman spoke to media, he once again touched base on the ongoing Calgary arena saga.

In addition to muddling a lot of the details regarding the City of Calgary’s most recent offer to the Flames – and denying that the Edmonton Oilers ever threatened to leave for Seattle – Bettman implied that no new Flames arena would kill any chances of Calgary landing the 2026 Winter Olympics.

BETTMAN: The type of deal that they think is appropriate for a new arena, which we think Calgary needs especially if they’re going to mount an Olympic bid. The location, the vision for the arena surrounding, they’re just in two different places, so the ownership has given up.

MacLEAN: Do you think that the Olympic bid might be the intangible that gets this deal done?

BETTMAN: I don’t know. It might be that the Olympic bid fails ’cause there won’t be a new arena, and clearly if there’s going to be an Olympics in Calgary, which would be great again, they need a new arena.

But that’s not actually true.

The Calgary Bid Exploration Committee put together a gigantic report as part of their work examining the feasibility of a 2026 Olympic bid. In it, they determined that they would need two arenas to host hockey and another arena for figure skating and short-track speed skating. A spruced-up Stampede Corral and a proposed New Event Centre would host hockey, while the Saddledome would host figure skating and short-track, with the notion being the three buildings would be the centerpiece of a Stampede Park “venue cluster.” (They can’t do hockey at the Markin MacPhail Center because of transportation capacity issues getting in and out of Winsport, so they don’t want to cluster too many events there to avoid crushing gridlock.)

In the event that there’s no event centre on the horizon, the bid committee could utilize a building outside of Calgary; the Servus Center or Centrium in Red Deer, or Rogers Place in Edmonton seem like good bets due to their proximity to Calgary. The downside of that approach would be that “clustering” the events and venues was done to minimize security costs and simplify logistics. Expanding to other locales pushes up costs and makes the games more challenging to pull off properly, both of which would factor into the IOC’s decision-making when weighing competing bids.

In an ideal world, there’s a logical arena deal in place that doesn’t bankrupt the City, and that building would play a key role in hosting an Olympics (that also doesn’t bankrupt the City) in 2026. But the absence of a new arena would not necessarily result in no Olympics, and it’s pretty deceptive to suggest that.

  • ComeOn

    Is it not a mark against bidders for the Olympics if they require new infrastructure to host the Olympics? Somewhere along the line I saw media coverage stating this.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see a new rink, but if that media coverage was right, the Olympics couldn’t be used as justification for the arena…or, you just let it count against you (which wouldn’t matter because it would seem nobody wants to host the Olympics).

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Didn’t the recent IOC delegation to Calgary say the Dome was still up to snuff as an Olympic venue? That tells me that either Bettman’s way off or the new IOC is unrecognizable from the old IOC in that they are worried that if too much money goes into building a new arena and other Olympic facilities, there won’t be enough cabbage to line their finely-tailored pockets.

    I wonder if the Flames crappy home record has anything to do with the boys being angry or embarrassed playing in a dive,

    One thing is for sure, there will be no All-Star gala weekend or Entry Draft in Calgary as long as the team plays out of an arena that was built when Michael Jackson owned the pop world and Miami Vice was called TV too good for TV.

  • Parallex

    The IOC said that the Dome was an acceptable venue for hockey and figure skating. Really, we still have all the stuff we used in ’88. The only thing we’d need would be a spot for curling (which I assume is what the ice plant in the fieldhouse would be for).