"We are by no means out of the woods," Flames president Ron Bremner said Thursday, after announcing the team has topped its goal of selling 14,000 season tickets. "We still have challenges to face."
Flames owners planned to put the team up for sale if they couldn't meet today's deadline for season-ticket sales.
But selling seats wasn't the only goal to keep the team in Calgary -- the Flames want a break on its lease, and they want financial assistance from the Alberta government.
"We need to be able to try and get a better arrangement with our landlord," said Bremner.
"And the second one is we need to be able to find a way to work with the province to be able get some kind of compensation or recognition for our trademarks and logos that are used for sports lotteries."
The Flames announced last April the team would be uprooted if the city didn't rally around the "Flames Forever" campaign and its sale of season tickets.
Only 8,700 season tickets were sold last year, with team officials pointing out that if the status quo of sales continued, the team would lose between $58 million and $72 million over the next four years.
On Thursday, the Flames announced Pengrowth Management Ltd. as the new title sponsor of the Flames' 17,000-seat arena, which is to be called the Pengrowth Saddledome.
"We are quite confident the team will stay here," said Jim Kinnear, president of Pengrowth, a Calgary-based fund manager, with more than $1 billion invested in the energy industry.
"We would not have got involved if we didn't think this team would stay here."
Kinnear refused to say how much his company paid to attach its name to the Saddledome.
Canadian Airlines previously signed a deal to pay $20 million for 20 years of having its name in lights with the Saddledome.
The Flames Forever campaign kicked off in mid-April to persuade Calgary's affluent corporate community to buy thousands of season tickets. Several companies pitched in to buy tickets, including Molson Canadian, which purchased 300 season tickets, to be given away to various recreational hockey groups and associations in the Calgary community.
Volunteers from the Friends of the Flames, a community group that formed 10 weeks ago to keep the franchise in Calgary, are ecstatic their goal has been surpassed.
"I think this whole effort helped put the team in better contact with the community," said Tim Hamilton, co-chair of the Friends' corporate ticket-sales campaign.
Recent ticket sales also mean that Calgary now qualifies for the NHL subsidy of $3.4 million.
The club was 27th out of 28 NHL teams in ticket revenue last season, failing to qualify for the league's Canadian assistance program.
But the Friends don't want to have to go through a similar campaign next year.
"We helped sell the tickets they needed to sell," Hamilton said. "But I still think there is work with the government because they've got to understand and have to come to the plate as well."
The Friends aren't holding out their hands for tax dollars, but want the Alberta government and the city of Calgary to raise money through sports lotteries.
"I mean, they do raise a lot of money off hockey and these hockey teams," Hamilton said.
When the Flames started its ticket drive last April, officials outlined four goals to keeping the team in Calgary:
-- To boost season-ticket sales.
-- To work with corporate sponsors to increase private suite revenue.
-- To review its existing building lease and other arrangements.
-- To look at new revenue areas in marketing.
The Flames said it will hold a media conference today to discuss the team's last two hurdles to staying in Calgary.
By Carol Harrington