Design team for controversial Calgary arena unveiled

Local firm Dialog and global firm HOK have been chosen to build Calgary's controversial $550-million arena and event centre.

Local firm Dialog will team up with international firm HOK to imagine the new facility in Victoria Park

Dialog, a local firm, is perhaps best known for its work on the central library, left, while HOK has worked on other sports facilities, including the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the U.S., right. (Calgary Municipal Land Corporation)

The team that will build Calgary's controversial $550-million arena and event centre has been unveiled. 

The project is financed by the city and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp. (CSEC), the owners of the Calgary Flames, Calgary Hitmen and Calgary Roughnecks.

The arena will be designed by a partnership between local firm Dialog and global firm HOK. 

CANA Construction and Mortensen Construction will handle the brick and mortar and logistics of the process. 

Dialog is probably best known in Calgary for its work on the new central library, which it designed in partnership with international firm Snohetta, and for the upcoming Calgary Cancer Centre. 

The Calgary-based firm also worked on the ICE District project in Edmonton, which fused that city's new arena to a larger mixed-use plan. 

That echoes the goal of the new Calgary arena, with the dream of an entertainment district that will rise around it. 

HOK has plenty of projects under its belt all over the world, including ongoing work to refurbish and expand the Centre Block of Parliament in Ottawa. It also designed the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. 

"As we move forward with the development of this facility, we are confident this project team brings the experience, leadership and ambition to realize the full potential of what the event centre provides Calgary," John Bean, the president and CEO of CSEC, said in a news release on Wednesday. 

Entertainment district

The redevelopment of East Victoria Park into the Entertainment District is being overseen by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, the city-owned entity responsible for the transformation of the East Village. 

The vision is to take a site now largely occupied by parking lots and use the arena, as well as the newly unveiled design for the BMO Centre expansion, as catalysts to attract investment to the area that sits just across from the Calgary Stampede grounds. 

"The event centre will be a year-round entertainment facility that will serve as an extraordinary civic amenity for Calgarians and visitors to enjoy for generations to come," Kate Thompson, the president and CEO of the CMLC, said in a news release. 

In a later interview, Thompson said it's too early to say what the actual design of the arena will look like, but the design is expected to be unveiled later this year. 

"Right now, anything is possible and the team's challenge is to really take all of the inputs, take the desires, the program that we need to see built here, the overall operating model, everything, and put it into a building that works for Calgary and works for the vision of the city."

Controversy over project funding

The project, however, has been controversial.

The deal to provide up to a $275 million of city funds to help build a new home for the Calgary Flames came just days after council announced budget cuts to things like transit and affordable housing and provided very little time for feedback from citizens.

It faced opposition from those who did not want to see public dollars paid out to help finance a building for a private corporation. 

The deal between the two partners means the city retains ownership of the building, but CSEC will be the primary user of the space. 

Construction will begin in August of next year with completion expected in May 2024.