The ambitious plan that is CalgaryNEXT is still eyed as a future home for the Calgary Flames, but a lack of public support remains an issue.
Last year, the Flames pitched CalgaryNEXT as a way to keep the team in town. The price tag and scope of the project loom large. With cost estimates that range upwards of $1.8 billion, CalgaryNEXT would provide a year-round sports complex that houses the Flames in a new arena and the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders at an adjacent fieldhouse.
In the year since it was first proposed, CalgaryNEXT has still not found enough support to move forward, and a recent survey suggests that many in Calgary are increasingly skeptical of the project. A Postmedia poll that was conducted by Mainstreet Research showed an even split–40% who are for the project, 40% who are opposed, with the remaining 20% undecided.
Given that margin, CalgaryNEXT backers would have to focus on swinging the margin of undecided participants in their favor. That might be tough to do without a firm cost estimate, especially considering that year ago the same poll found an opposition rate of 34%.
For both the Flames and Stampeders, the reaction in Calgary to a project may hinge on new facilities in Edmonton and Regina. This fall Edmonton is debuting the Oilers’ Rogers Place, while Regina is opening New Mosaic Stadium, which is set become home to the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. Based on polling, it seems that many in Calgary are watching those projects closely. More from the Calgary Herald:
“Among those people who told us that they were following those stories, support was high. So it appears that there is some envy there,” said Quito Maggi, president of Mainstreet Research.
“I think when people are seeing what other cities are getting and what they’re not getting, there’s a fear of missing out.”
While the supporters of CalgaryNEXT seem to be following those projects closely, whether they affect the views of those opposed or undecided remains the larger question. Calgary Councillor Shane Keating has already cited Rogers Place as a reason to take a closer look at building CalgaryNEXT, but Rogers Place has received a good deal of scrutiny from its opponents–who contend, among other things, that the arena and projected economic development will not provide broader community benefits.
As it relates to Calgary, the Flames might get a boost if Rogers Place or Mosaic Stadium proves to be successful. Yet with reaction to CalgaryNEXT divided, it is going to take a good deal of work to build support for the project.