What’s happening with Calgary arena construction in 2024

Ryan Pike
21 days ago
Folks, 2024 is going to be a very busy year in terms of developments for the upcoming new Calgary Flames arena project. Heck, it’s already been a busy year, with utility work and preparation underway to consolidate the existing 7.2 acre lot into an expanded 10 acre lot for the building.
And behind the scenes, even more stuff is happening.

Land use re-designations

At present, two land use re-designations have been submitted to the City. The reason for this is pretty simple: 13th Avenue – the east-west road between the two existing parking lots – and 5th Street – the north-south road connecting 12th Avenue with the Saddledome’s rear parking lots – are going to be part of the larger 10 acre lot.
But the City can’t just wave a magic wand and close these two roads on their own, administratively somebody has to request it from the project team. So there are two land use re-designations which will change their permitted land usage from roadways into land that stuff can be built on.

Development permits for excavation, shoring and grading

Okay, this is the part where you have to tip your hat to the project team for being clever. Generally-speaking, the development permit process with the City can take awhile, especially if the project is big and complicated. In 2021, the development permits were submitted early in the year and had their planning commission hearing in November, which is probably the level of rigour you want for something like this… but if you’re on the project team and want to get some parts of the process moving, having them all tied up in a development permit can be a bit of a challenge.
So… the project team broke out two parts of the project that precede the building’s actual construction and submitted them separately as their own development permits. One is for excavation and grading, effectively allowing them to dig a hole to specific depths to prepare for further work (as well as some drainage considerations). The other is for shoring, which allows them to put up temporary structures to retain earth in preparation for the beginning of full-on construction.
As a result, once those permits are given the green light, they can presumably get to work on those components of building prep quite soon – potentially after Stampede, though that’s just an educated guess – and not have to wait for the main building permit to be approved later in the year. As for renderings and/or plans of the revised building design to be available – it’s widely expected to be a version of the previous HOK design from 2021 adapted for a larger lot – they should be coming around the time the development permit for the full building is submitted in the coming months.
Long story short: we would expect there to be work happening on the site in late summer (and potentially even a ground-breaking), but the “work” being done will be digging a big hole where a building will go later on. Active construction of the building itself has to wait for that development permit to be applied for and approved, which based on the 2021 timeline might drag into the latter parts of 2024.
But let’s face it: a new Flames arena has been theoretical for so damn long, getting a big hole done in 2024 will be a substantial leap forward in progress. Our current expectation is for full-tilt construction to begin in 2025 and for the arena to open for summer 2027.
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