What’s happening with the Calgary Flames’ new arena?

Ryan Pike
29 days ago
The Calgary Flames played their final game of the 2023-24 season back on Apr. 18. Since then, everyone’s attention has drifted to the ongoing Stanley Cup playoffs and the Flames’ preparations for the many, many draft selections they have available in the 2024 NHL Draft at the end of June.
But one question has kept coming up over the last while: so what’s happening with the new arena?
Over the next few days, we’ll be providing some updates on the arena project, its progress and its importance – and we chatted with a few key figures about micro and macro aspects of things. And while there have yet to be major public pronouncements of what’s happening, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes – think of it like a duck; it looks like not much is happening on the surface, but their legs are moving very quickly to keep things moving along.
Here’s a quick snapshot of where things are at.

There are four different applications in the City’s system

Right now, there are four different applications related to the arena (or “event centre” in City Hall parlance) in the City’s development permit system:
  • Two are land use re-designations to close off 5th Street and 13th Avenue so they can be incorporated into the larger lot.
  • One is a development permit for excavation and grading – digging the hole for the arena.
  • One is a development permit for shoring – putting up temporary walls to keep the hole intact as they start to build the arena.
All four are currently “under review,” per the City’s system.
Work continues on consolidating the full 10 acre lot where the arena’s going to go, but they can’t really create the full lot until the land use re-designations get approved and they’re able to close off the two roads.

There will be a fifth application for the building itself

Last Monday, arena designs and preliminary work on the development application for the arena itself were shown to the event centre committee at City Hall “in camera” – a confidential briefing. A similar briefing was given to the planning commission on Thursday morning, with the aim being to get some guidance on anything that needed to be tweaked prior to the full submission.
Event centre committee chair Sonya Sharp discussed how things were progressing after the committee meeting (via LiveWire Calgary’s Darren Krause):
She expected they’ll see something in mid-June for return to the Event Centre Committee, with a development permit potentially issued in early July. It’s around that time when Calgarians will see designs.
“We want to be able to say that we’re breaking ground summer 2024. That is the momentum we have to hit.”

We’ll likely see renderings and designs revealed sometime in June or July

This is the single most common question we’ve gotten, so we’ll repeat: we’ll likely see renderings and designs of the new building revealed in June or July. We haven’t been given any hints from anybody on how things will look. The various arena contracts mentioned adapting the previous design – which was for a 7.2 acre lot and didn’t involve a community rink – for the 10 acre lot, but it’s unclear how much the previous exterior will change.
We’ll find out, soon, though. In June or July.

If everything keeps progressing, work could begin after Stampede

The Cowboys tent will be on the arena lot during the Stampede, and it’ll take a bit of time to clear out. But if the dominoes keep toppling with the applications that have been submitted for the project – the roads are able to be closed, the lot can be consolidated and they’re given the green light to do the excavation and shoring – then we could see work on the building begin after the Stampede.
City council goes on their summer recess in August, so our guess is they’ll be trying to get something done before the end of July.

Based on how long similar builds have taken, they’re aiming for 2027 completion

Building an arena in a climate where the ground freezes usually takes two full construction seasons. If they’re able to get the excavation and shoring done before the winter, essentially digging out the foundation before the ground freezes, that’ll definitely help things move along. But history suggests, even if that gets done, we shouldn’t expect the arena to be done prior to 2027. (The City’s recent annual financial report says “Construction of the new facility is expected to begin in 2024 and take approximately three years.”)
In an ideal world, and based on their planning for the 2021 version of things, the aim is likely to have the building done for May or June 2027 handover to the Flames, and then they can work the operational kinks out over the summer before the NHL season begins in October. We usually don’t live in an ideal world so we’ll see how that works out, but that’s the general shape of things.

In the meantime, a likely construction reprieve during the 2024 Stampede

If you’ve been anywhere near the Saddledome lately, you’re aware that it’s a flurry of construction activity. Well, good news, that’s mostly going to stop… for a little bit. The BMO Centre expansion is opening in June. The 17th Avenue extension – bringing the road right into Stampede Park – is also expected to open in June. The revamped Victoria Park LRT station? Also June.
Things will start up again after the Stampede, particularly in terms of arena activity on the north end of Stampede Park, but a lot of the lengthy projects that we’ve patiently waiting to see finished will be unveiled over the summer.



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