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Flames pitch ambitious CalgaryNEXT arena project

Proposed CalgaryNEXT arena project

The Calgary Flames (NHL) have pitched an ambitious $890-million CalgaryNEXT project that would include a new arena and a new covered CFL stadium/fieldhouse, but it’s unclear whether there’s support for public funding for the project.

The plan calls for Scotiabank Saddledome and McMahon Stadium replacements on the west side of downtown Calgary. The arena would seat 20,000 and designed both for pro hockey and concerts. The fieldhouse would seat 30,000 for Calgary Stampeders game, with a full field both for CFL and FIFA soccer.

There are several issues with the plan, but the major one is cost. The Flames would pay $200 million, with another $250 million coming from a ticket tax on all events. Another $200 million would come directly from the city for the fieldhouse/stadium (a new fieldhouse for track and amateur events has been on the city’s wish list for years), and the final piece — $240 million — would be generated as a community revitalization levy. In addition, money for remediation on the proposed city-owned building site (which could cost hundreds of millions) would need to be found as well. At a press conference announcing the plan, Flames officials acknowledged the challenges to make the plan work:

“CalgaryNEXT is a bold new vision for Calgary. The question is simple, ‘Is this good for Calgary and is this good for Calgarians?’” said Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Ken King.

“If we can come to an affirmative answer, what we will do is get to the starting line of a very difficult, very arduous process, to bring this home and to bring it to fruition.”…

Fans excited about the prospect of watching the Stampeders and Flames play in a new home will have to wait some time it’s expected it will be at least a year before work would begin, (possibly longer, depending on contamination cleanup), and it will take an estimated three years to build the facilities.

Proposed CalgaryNEXT arena project

Indeed, the project is being pitched more as a jobs program than as a sports development. That’s not been a huge success, as a poll from the Calgary Herald shows residents are evenly split over public funding for the project: Most support it, but almost half of those polled are against public funding:

But Coun. Evan Woolley, who represents the area where the complex would be built, said despite the poll indicating many are opposed to spending public money on the megaproject, it may be exactly what the city needs.

“We have a downturn in the economy and we have an opportunity to build something that will diversify our economy,” he said.

“My economic belief would be that during tough economic times in the private sector, the government should step in to keep jobs and to create jobs … this proposal is one of many opportunities for us to that.”

And there’s one more reason to dislike the project: it would take the team away from the Stampede grounds, putting the future of the Scotiabank Saddledome in some economic doubt. The Saddledome opened in 1983 and its operational budget relies on Flames revenues.

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