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Flames megaproject pitch for new arena

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Haven’t seen any thread on this, and it’s creating some major buzz here in Calgary. A lot of people on either side of the fence. Location, Tax payer $ and do flames really need a new area are up for debate.


The Calgary Flames’ vision for its new arena project is a blockbuster that would take up several blocks’ worth of prime land west of downtown — bringing together a new hockey arena plus a football stadium and an amateur sports fieldhouse, the Herald has learned.

It’s a megaproject that could easily cost more than half a billion dollars, and features a component more likely to draw in civic funding support than if it were merely new stand-alone homes for the Flames and Stampeders.

By bundling in a fieldhouse designed for track meets, indoor soccer and other amateur sports, Flames CEO Ken King is proposing to build something on the top of the city’s own project wish list, and potentially gives the proposal the sort of public benefit that Mayor Naheed Nenshi has said is essential if city hall is to become a project partner.

The indoor multi-sport complex could make the Flames project more “palatable” to the city, said Jason Zaran, incoming chairman of the Calgary Multisport Fieldhouse Society.

“A multi-sport facility is needed in this town, and I think if they can be the ones to bring it to the table and get it done, it looks good on them as well,” Zaran said.

His group has been working with the city’s recreation department on a $202-million, publicly-funded development at Foothills Athletic Park, just north of McMahon Stadium. In February, city staff ranked it at the top of the city’s unfunded infrastructure projects.

King has offered the fieldhouse society a tantalizing Plan B — constructing the facility as part of the stadium for the Canadian Football League team, which the Flames own. According to one source familiar with the plans, the football complex and fieldhouse would be part of the same convertible building.

King shared his plans with Nenshi in mid-March, then the mayor relayed it to council in a closed-door session Monday evening, multiple sources have confirmed. But there’s still no formal proposal submitted to council, and it’s unclear when King will finally reveal the ambitious concept to the public, though he did say a month ago the release was a “couple of weeks” away.

This three-in-one idea spawns numerous questions pertaining to Stampede Park’s Scotiabank Saddledome, the University of Calgary’s McMahon lands, and, of course, the City of Calgary, whose West Village lands the Flames are said to covet.

Combining an arena with a stadium/fieldhouse takes up a much larger swath of the property around the Greyhound Station.

The city has been acquiring those lands for several years, and recently purchased the four-hectare GSL car dealership site for $36.9 million. But it’s never been for sports facilities. The land would become part of the West Village blueprint for a future community of condo highrises and office buildings, akin to what’s under development in East Village.

Several councillors have said they’d be open to giving the Flames free land for a new arena, though the Herald could not confirm whether that’s what Ken King is asking for. Nenshi and council unanimously oppose direct taxpayer subsidies for professional sports buildings, and King tried to head off talk of a massive funding request in a radio station interview last month.

“Before any of your listeners have conniptions, when you see our project, people are just going to love it. And we’re not going to sneak in here and steal money from the city,” he told KISS 95.9.

In a voicemail Wednesday, King said he’s not yet prepared to discuss the proposal, which he’s been working on since at least 2007.

“I’m still in the quiet zone,” he said.

The Flames organization now owns the Stampeders, Flames, Calgary Hitmen (minor-league hockey) and Calgary Roughnecks (lacrosse) — but they’re playing in some of their respective leagues’ oldest facilities, the 1960 McMahon Stadium and the 1983 Saddledome.

In Edmonton, the Oilers’ $480-million new arena will be complete by fall 2016. That city’s tax-backed loan, ticket tax and parking revenue will cover much of its cost.

Nenshi has been skeptical about the need for a new arena or for any city cost-sharing. In 2011, the mayor’s office refused to help set up an independent committee to study the project.

The mayor’s tone appears to have shifted slightly last month, after his meeting with King. When asked about the arena at a Rotary Club speech, Nenshi reiterated that it must have some public benefit if it’s to garner public funding, and he praised the Flames’ six owners as “deeply committed” to Calgary and thoughtful about their process.

“Whatever solution we end up with is a solution we’ll get with great respect for one another and figuring out together what’s best for the community,” Nenshi said.

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Personally I think it’s a great idea. Having gone to my fair share of flames games each year the Saddle dome is no longer cutting it. Although the shape looks cool, acoustically, the shape makes the sound suck and many major bands play in Edmonton instead due to this.

Location wise I’m having a hard time trying to wrap my head around how they will fit something so big in the proposed area, but I definitely believe it needs to stay near the core of the city. So many local business (mostly pubs) thrive on the action of flames nights. Currently before and after flames games 17th is a zoo from people going to and leaving the dome. Putting the rink at an outside location creates cheaper cost to purchase land but it also hurts the atmosphere of going to the game. Not a cheap cab ride home.

As for taxes, I’m definitely ok with this. The city is already spreading millions of dollars to enhance the city’s image. (25 million on the new walking bridge. A million on a pointless blue ring.) At least this cost will be serving a purpose and creating thousands of jobs in the process. A building like this creates a one off effect on increasing the traffic near the surrounding areas.

Overall I’m excited about this.

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he's got a good pitch with his suggestion and proposal for so many city benefits and by building all of it in one area it frees up other places in the city for further development.

Bottom line is IF a billionaire corp or owner is willing to push their own money in for municipal projects...hard to say no

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On the one hand, the timing for this is perfect. The construction of this would supplement the local construction industry, which is due to take a major hit soon (once the economic effects of the oil prices finish rippling down).

And judging by historical cycles, it would likely be complete right around the time for the next local economic upswing. So they could complete it when labour prices are lower, while opening while consumer spending is rising.

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