New Area for Calgary Flames Expected to cost $550 Million

December 13, 2018 by Noah Gagnon
Architectural drawing of the new proposed event City in Calgary that would house become the new home for the Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames and the City of Calgary are looking into the plausibility of building a new event centre that would become the new home of the Calgary Flames. The new centre is expected to cost at least $550 million but could increase to $600 million.

A proposal by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation was presented to the city council event centre committee on Friday. Commenting to the committee, Michael Brown from the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation stated,

“I’m very confident we can deliver a really good building for the citizens of Calgary as well as for Calgary Sports and Entertainment for that number. It’s a strong number. It has respectable contingency in it. What’s not included is the cost of land associated with it.”

Calgary and the Calgary Flames have not addressed who will cover the costs nor have commented on how those costs will be shared in their bid to replace the aging Saddledome, which at 35 years old, is no longer meeting the Flames needs. Councillor Jeff Davison, chair of the committee stated,

“We’re not negotiating at all at this point. We’ve had very early days, high-level conversations with the Flames. Their expectation is that we bring the vision forward for the entertainment and cultural district and that’s what we’re doing.”

The proposed event centre is anticipated to seat 20,000 and would be the focus at revitalizing the east side of the city. It would include residential and commercial areas in meeting that revitalisation goal. Davison added that council believe this could be the win the city needs and that this vision is one that can be great for this district and the city.

City council voted to re-engage the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, who are the owners of the city’s WHL team the Hitmen as well as the Calgary Stampeders and Calgary Roughnecks after talks broke down due to comments by Ken King, the president of the Flames last year.

Proposed interior of the new $550 million Calgary Flames event centre

However, the Flames authorised the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation to review design proposals carried out by their architect, and that led to several large commercial contractors reviewing the designs and subsequent costs for construction.

Brown added that,

“What Calgary Sports and Entertainment did for us is allow us to get access to some of their design information.

The vision in place for the event centre is a multi-purpose one that will allow for separate sections to house concerts and arts such as sports and the Cirque du Soleil. Brown stated that you do not have to necessarily fill the entire building in order to take advantage of it adding that,

“If you want to have something in the Saddledome, you’re booking the Saddledome. For a true event centre, you can do many different things with it.

Prior to talks stalling, the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation had made an offer to invest $275 million into the proposed $500 million arena but stated that the City of Calgary would need to raise the remainder through a revitalisation levy. The city is able to divert property taxes as a result of new development based on the theory that new business and housing would be built around the new arena.

The City of Calgary responded with a three-way proposal that the cost be covered equally by the city, the Calgary Flames and from a ticket sales surcharge. The proposed location downtown on the east side came as a result of a failed pitched project by the Flames in 2015 that would have cost $890 million. The Flames had offered to cover $200 million and a $250 million load which would be paid as a result of a surcharge on ticket sales.

At this stage, it is not known if the event centre will move forward, but it is clear the benefits to the city outweigh the costs. When you consider how well the Flames are doing this year and the fan base, it is safe to suggest ticket sales will be brisk should the new centre be built.