Could there be arena progress in the New Year?

Ground has been broken on the renovations for Seattle’s Key Arena, while Ottawa’s downtown arena deal has seemingly fallen completely apart. So, what’s happening with the ongoing Calgary Flames arena saga?

The story so far…

For those of you just joining us, the Flames really started the legwork on a new arena after the June 2013 flood that submerged the first 11 rows of the Scotiabank Saddledome under portions of the Elbow River. In the meantime, arena deals have been completed in Edmonton (Rogers Place), Detroit (Little Caesars Arena), Las Vegas (T-Mobile Arena), Seattle (Seattle Center Arena) and Long Island (Belmont Park).

Other than the August 2015 unveiling of Calgary NEXT – and city council’s subsequent thumbs down to that proposal due to various concerns – and a public skirmish in the media between the Flames and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi about a proposed Victoria Park arena prior to the October 2017 civic election, there hasn’t been a ton of traction.

But since this past June, city council struck an Event Centre Assessment Committee to determine what the possibilities were for a new building that could house Flames hockey and other events. The big developments so far have been the aligning of the event centre with ongoing work being conducted by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation in developing a cultural and entertainment district in Victoria Park.

In October, city council approved a recommendation that the committee restart talks with the Flames about a new building.

So what’s happening now?

We reached out to Ward Six city councillor Jeff Davidson, who chairs the ECAC, to find out where things sit regarding the arena negotiations.

He confirmed that City and the Flames are talking, though things are still pretty high-level right now. The big outputs from the ECAC have been terms of reference for what the City wants out of an event centre development – defining the type of development they’re willing to invest in – and investigations into how the event centre could fit into the work that CMLC is doing in the larger Rivers District (the East Village and Victoria Park).

So to this point, formal talks with the Flames have more or less been along the lines of “Hey, here’s the type of things we’re looking to do, is this something you would be willing to be a part of?” But things are aligning that could potentially turn these high-level talks into something decidedly more real.

First off, our friends at Global News reported last week that the Community Revitalization Levy for the Rivers District has been extended for 20 years. The notion is those funds would be used to fund linkages between Stampede Park and the surrounding communities, but also to help fund the expansion of the BMO Centre into the space currently occupied by the Stampede Corral. It’s unclear if it would be able to contribute funds to an event centre, but it could be a possibility depending on how the levy is structured.

The ECAC meets on Dec. 14, and one of the items on the agenda is an economic impact study that looks at how the event centre could contribute to economic development – the way things are going, an event centre only makes sense for the City’s goals if done in the context of helping create the cultural and entertainment district, so they need an idea of how much it could do that. The Strategic Meeting of Council on Jan. 28 will see city hash out their big spending priorities, which will help set financial parameters of the discussion.

At that point, both the philosophical and financial boundaries of the negotiations will be defined and talks can probably start getting serious.

“In the context of having a vision and a plan and a funding source put together,” explained Davison. “At that time we would likely approach partners with ‘Here’s what we think we could do, what are you willing to bring to the table with us?’ And that’s when you have that real conversation. I think the big thing for people to remember is in the context of the Rivers District, the Flames are one partner.”

Given that the event centre would be a focal point of the proposed cultural and entertainment district, the Flames would be one of potentially several partners working with the City on the district’s development. They’d contribute a key piece, but it would be part of a larger puzzle.

It’s difficult to guess how things could progress once talks get real, but considering things fell apart fairly rapidly last summer it’s not inconceivable that things could come together rapidly as well.

It’s possible that before too long the Calgary arena saga could finally, mercifully, be at an end.

  • SydScout

    I’m an outsider here, so take this with a tonne of salt, but walking to the Dome on Saturday night for one of the few but exciting forays to home away from home, there seems to be a logical progression from downtown, swinging around the corner, past the library (looks spectacular btw), music centre onto a new dome/entertainment district. I lived here in 03/04 and while it’s still sketchy at the that end of town, you could see the green shoots of a really nice corridor if they continued work past the music centre towards the old dome, hugging the C Train line. It could really enhance the city and transform that old, tired end of town.

    • Justthateasy

      You walked by a monstrous space of absolutely nothing. Half a billion dollars of wood finish. A bloody forest beautiful wood. Half a billion buys a lot of spectacular. What waste!
      Don’t get me started.

    • buts

      If your tired of hearing about it then don’t reply mr. beef…..I really hope that they do this right and possibly have a fieldhouse attached similar to Calgary next. We need that facility big time. Also we know the stampede board wants the BMO building expanded, the corral is on it’s last legs as is the big four building. My question Ryan is, where is the stampede board in all of this redevelopment, we know they have tons of money and they also need to expand while getting rid of old buildings? Finally as our city council keeps raising tax’s and giving themselves raises we have creosote leaking into the Bow river.

    • L.Kolkind

      If you don’t want to read the article don’t. Other people may find it interesting and having an additional article doesn’t take away from the hockey articles that are done.

      • Albertabeef

        I get enough politics from all the other sites, it would be nice to keep that to a minimum on here. We seem to get at least one of these articles every month with no new news. Blah blah blah. Yes I care but don’t need to hear the BS negotiations. Like I said, just tell us when it’s done and actually deliver news not just space filler.

  • Pete_R

    I live in Inglewood so I go by the dome daily, I noticed the CMLC is breaking ground on their massive new parkade just a few blocks from the dome. Other than stampede time, an event centre is really the only justification for something like that.

  • Stu Gotz

    Glad you are on top of the arena discussions Pike. Your insights have been valuable. Any word on the potential new Flames ownership changes that could also impact this in a positive way going forward? Shaw and Atco would be strong local partners and have strong financial capacity.

      • Stu Gotz

        I can tell you the past discussions with Nenshi have turned off a number of the owners of Calgary Sports Entertainment Group. Also the recent passing of co-owner Clayton Riddell will initiate some change. I believe Murray Edwards will remain as the major owner and discussions have taken place with Shaw & Atco as interested local parties.

        • Flames fan since 83

          Interesting. Thx.
          I’m hopeful that both parties have identified the personality conflicts and those individual stay on the sidelines. Nenshi and Ken King for sure. And Bettman for double sure. Fingers crossed they figure out a win-win.

  • BendingCorners

    A dead horse lies rotting on the pavement. Vulture gorge themselves on its corpse while flies lay eggs in its eyes. Nearby the Calgary city council stands waiting with their buggy. Ken and Murray approach the corpse menacingly, buggy whips in hand.


    I spent last weekend at Rogers arena in Vancouver. Not really better than the Dome. I will miss the Dome. Lots of childhood memories there with my dad.

    • Albertabeef

      Me too and the Corral as well. But then I have been in so many parts of so many buildings on the grounds in my years. Only thing I regret not seeing at Stampede park was the original Stampede Wrestling. By the time I started working as a teen it had already been sold to WWF/E. I also remember a school field trip to the Dome to see “Rodeo Royale”(think it’s called Ruff Stock today) before any NHL games had been played there. I remember going to regular season games and curling in the Big-4 building in 1988-89. Only playoff game I made it to was a Hitman game which they won. Just so many memories there for sure. Ice Capades, The Flying Fathers, The Harlem Globetrotters, The Shriner’s Circus, and oodles of concerts. And now I feel old 🙂

  • Flames fan since 83

    I’m happy to hear they are talking.
    Honestly, I hope they keep talking, and it’s behind closed doors until they work it out one way or the other. Some things are better worked out without the blow by blow exposure of public scrutiny.

  • Flaming moe

    I went to the game in EDM on Sunday night. That was my 2nd time in that building. I was just as jealous the second time as I was the first time. What a gorgeous facility. I couldn’t help but think how unfair it is that we are 2 hours down the highway and play in the oldest building in the freaking league! Flames fans are just as deserving as Oiler fans. Build us our damn arena already!!!!

    • Flames fan since 83

      Moe, I’m curious to the cost of your ticket on Sunday? And location of the ticket?
      And last question, what is the cost of a similar ticket cost at the Saddledome?

  • BringtheFire 2.0

    Hey! Sorry to hijack the thread but can any of the stats folk find out what team has the most players who’ve recorded their first point/ goal this year?

    It would be appreciated.

  • Honkydonk

    What is clear is the stark difference between Edmonton and Calgary even being in the same province. Everything gets done for Edmonton and boom no sorry Calgary you get screwed again. I do not see any way this arena gets built while we have our current mayor and premiere sorry.

    I am really very sour about the whole arena situation as a whole on all fronts and therefore won’t comment beyond expressing my disappointment in seeing how our city being walked all over is ok. Many have had enough of it. The NDP and Nenshi heaven is calgarians hell and the results speak for itself.

    • Pete_R

      Ummm… The previous conservative gov’t refused to put money towards the EDM arena. Not a partisan issue, both sides have shown no interest in funding arenas.

    • Heeeeere’s Johnny

      According to a 2016 Sportsnet article here is how the EDM arena was funded:

      Total cost: The final tab is almost $614 million which includes the arena, the land, a massive glass “Winter Garden” that stretches over the street in front, a community rink attached to the building and a connection to the city’s light-rail transit system.

      Taxpayers: The city is paying almost $313 million with much of that coming from a so-called community revitalization levy, which will see a portion of downtown property taxes redirected to the project. The city will own the building, but will lease it back to the Oilers and the team’s owner, Daryl Katz.

      The team: The team is paying $166 million. Some of that is in cash, but most of it comes from rent payments to the city. The team will retain all the revenue from the operation of the building. Katz, in turn, has promised to keep the Oilers in Edmonton for at least the next 35 years.

      Fans: Each person attending an event will have to pay a ticket surcharge. The deal calls for the proceeds to go to the city and be sufficient to cover the principal and interest payments, repaying $125 million over a 35-year term.

    • FlamesFan27

      You need to get your facts straight. Neither the provincial or federal government helped with the Edmonton arena. The City of Edmonton taxpayers (myself included) got screwed on that deal, with no revenue, significant costs and down the road all of the risk of an aging building.

  • Aadvarkian Abakeneezer

    I’ve been to the facilities in Edmonton and Vancouver and call me old fashioned but neither have the feel the Dome does. The Canucks’ rink feels bland and Rogers Place in Edmonton made me feel like I’d accidentally walked into an airport. I’m not disputing that at some point the Dome has to go, but it will be a shame if it becomes yet another shiny, soulless boardroom with a novelty ice surface in the middle.

    • calgaryfan

      was excited to see the Vancouver arena when it was new. Totally disappointed just a big pile of concrete. Myself I like the dome but I guess not being able to have concerts is a big problem. Gave up Flames season’s ticket when I moved to Victoria. I am hearing the new arena will have fewer seats but more corporate boxes. Fewer seats probably means more costly tickets?

    • Rockmorton65

      I don’t think you can reno the Dome. They’ve maximized the seating and the structure can’t support the modern entertainment requirements. I think it’s time to bid the ol girl, adieu.

      • Spider you muda&@#ker

        Yeah the Dome is incapable of supporting the wieght of most of the modern music acts currently touring major cities. It’s unfortunate because rexall place could even handle the wieght its just the way the dome was constructed. I know alot of poeple dont care but losing these acts is a big blow to the core economy and particularly hurts IATSE local who sets up and dismantles shows played at the saddledome and surrounding stampede venues. Alot of the issues aswell with the dome are its facilities they are no longer capable of running a building like the dome efficiently and costing owners money so with all these compounding issues there is no way in hell Flames organization is going to spend a dime renovating this dinosaur.

  • benfr

    It sounds like a reasonable approach and from the comments by Councillor Davison they are reasonable people. If we can keep Mayor Nenshi far away from these discussion I think a reasonable accommodation by all involved is very possible.

    • Burnward


      You and your entire family, as all Canadians are, are two-three generations removed from fleeing war and oppression yourself.

      Get over your small, embarrassing fear of people who don’t look like you. You’re a coward.

      • Burnward

        Also. This fear of immigration overrunning Canada or the US is the stupidest, most irrational argument ever.

        There is a huge GAHDAMM OCEAN on both sides.

        More fear mongering to scare the small-minded.

        • Burnward

          Master plan: let’s target a country with no possible way to enter it except at highly monitored ports.

          And let’s ensure they have to go through rigid screening processes to even get there.

          But not only that, we’re going to disguise them as tired mothers, starving children and scared fathers just to make it seem more real.

          yeah. That’s it.

      • jupiter

        Name calling and labeling people is shallow Burnward.There is absolutely nothing wrong with LEGAL IMMIGRATION which polls say 85% of Canadians support .Get over your Global welfare agenda.

  • PlayitagainSam

    Well Oiler update. .. Koskinen hottest goalie in the league on the 2nd hottest team in the league. 2nd in goals against, 3rd in save % . Oilers 8-2-1 in last 11 under the tutelage of a great hockey mind in Hitchcock. Who knew it would just take a coaching change to get them in the right direction?

  • Abagofpucks

    As much as i hate the Flames i hope your city council finally gets you a new barn. But your still gonna have to put up with all the property taxes an so on like everybody else. Its just the way it is these days.

    • Spider you muda&@#ker

      Dammit Abogofpucks dont tell anybody in Calgary there taxes are gonna go up with a new rink! F%cking things definitely not getting built now anybody even mentions tax hike in this city everybody goes running. As much as I would love a new arena blue collar people in this city dont really have money or job security anymore nevermind spending 500$ to take there family to one hockey game that ends up looking like the one up in your neck of the woods the other night BORING but I guess if your team wins your loving it regardless lol

  • Phockey

    I don’t think the city can afford an arena until we get another expensive library in the core. The Nenshi concrete tomb of books and microfiche. Face Palm