Secret briefing books link CalgaryNext and Olympics bid, despite official denials

CBC News has been given a look at the CalgaryNext briefing books given to city council members. They reveal the precise detail of the Flames' owners plans for new sports facilities for professional athletes and Calgarians. They also show the 2026 winter Olympics are part of the plan.

Drawing including the Olympic rings, winter sports banners makes link to 2026 Games bid

Briefing books obtained by CBC News include detailed drawings of the CalgaryNext project incorporating the Olympics logo. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

If the briefing books the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) has given to city council are any indication, the owners of this city's top sports teams have already put a lot of work into the megaproject they call CalgaryNext.

An awful lot of work.

CBC News has obtained drawings of the arena/stadium/fieldhouse complex that Calgarians didn't get to see at the council meeting in June.

They show a precise level of detail. Right down to where the coaches' offices will be located. How many washrooms are needed. Where the restaurants will be placed.

The documents leave the impression that the owners of the Flames and Stampeders didn't just pay an architectural firm for a few conceptual drawings.

No. This is clearly what they want to build.

Briefing books obtained by CBC News show detailed drawings of CalgaryNext facility. They include precise locations of many amenities, including locker rooms, owners' luxury box and washrooms. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

And while it's a detailed glimpse of what Calgary's future sports facilities could look like, there's also one image which raises so many more questions.

It's the one that shows the Olympic rings on the wall and banners hanging from the roof which display winter Olympic sports like bobsleigh, skiing and speedskating.

So far, everyone with the city and CSEC have said the Olympics and CalgaryNext are not linked. The picture shows either something else or a whimsical glimpse of some future 'maybe' if a bunch of planets align.

When the last CalgaryNext discussion happened at city council in June — a mere week after the city plunked down $5 million to explore a potential bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics — the mayor was asked about the connections between the two sports mega-projects.

'Just a coincidence'

"It's just a coincidence that it's happening at the same time. But the Olympic discussion is so far behind this discussion that it doesn't make any sense to tie them together," said the mayor.

"Clearly if you were going to go forward with an Olympic bid, you'd need more facilities. But whether those facilities look like CalgaryNext... you certainly don't need a new stadium, so it's a very different question."

The head of CSEC, Ken King, said something similar in April.

"Our project is a bonus to a bid, as opposed to a bid necessarily being a bonus to our project," said King.

It's worth noting that King is also a member of the board for the Calgary Sport Tourism Authority, the group that pitched city council on spending $5 million to explore an Olympic bid.

Coun. Druh Farrell and CSEC's Ken King (Supplied)

Coun. Druh Farrell voted against exploring an Olympics bid. To her mind, the two sports ventures are joined at the hip.

"How it's being discussed is CalgaryNext is associated with the Olympic bid, so I think we're past that point of saying it's not linked," said Farrell. "They clearly are linked."

Whether one believes CalgaryNext will cost $1.8 billion as the city estimates or $1.3 billion as CSEC believes, such a project will undoubtedly bring Calgary's sports facilities into the 21st century.

While a study is expected at city council in the new year on what's known as Plan B (possibly building a new arena at Stampede Park and renovating McMahon Stadium), the drawings for CSEC's Plan A can be tantalizing for some.

It's just that currently, there's not enough money to actually build it.