Gary Bettman slams Saddledome as 'old, antiquated, inefficient building'

Calgary's Scotiabank Saddledome is an "old, antiquated, inefficient building" that "doesn't hold a candle to what has been done in new arenas," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said after touring the facility Wednesday.

NHL commissioner calls construction of proposed new arena 'vitally important' to Calgary

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to reporters in Calgary. (Mike Symington/CBC)

Calgary's Scotiabank Saddledome is an "old, antiquated, inefficient building" that "doesn't hold a candle to what has been done in new arenas," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said after touring the facility Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Wednesday's game between the Flames and Boston Bruins, Bettman repeated his comments from a day earlier, when he said the city is in need of a new arena.

"In terms of amenities, in terms of facilities, in terms of egress and the like, for all the events that go here, this building was built in the 1980s, they don't build buildings like this anymore," he said. "It's a grand old building, it's got a great roofline, it's historic in many ways, but ... these aren't the facilities our hockey teams typically have."

Bettman is currently on a western tour of sorts visiting various NHL arenas, something he said he tries to do annually. He was in Edmonton on Tuesday and is headed to Vancouver next. 

Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, which owns the Flames, has announced plans for CalgaryNEXT, a $1.3-billion arena and fieldhouse proposed for the west end of downtown, which Bettman said he supports.

Earlier Wednesday, the commissioner met with a group of Flames season ticket holders and said they were excited about the prospects of a new home for their team.

Bettman also spent an hour meeting with Mayor Naheed Nenshi, where he had a "very cordial, open, candid conversation."

"I'm hopeful the city and Flames can be on the same page so this can move forward as quickly as possible," he said.

"I think everybody knows a new arena is important on a whole host of levels for a whole host of reasons."

As for a timeline, Bettman said he'd like to see a project get started sooner rather than later.

"Yesterday," he said when asked when he'd like to see a decision made. "And I'm not trying to be funny or sarcastic but the fact is, the longer this goes, I think in some respects it gets a little more difficult. Building costs go up, the amount of time it will take to get into a new arena situation will be longer."

Bettman also pointed to the newly opened Rogers Place in Edmonton — which he toured for the first time on Tuesday — as a motivator.

"The new building in Edmonton, for example, is doing a lot more business, perhaps some of it is now at the expense of Calgary in terms of concerts and the like," he said. "And I just want to make sure that long-term, the Flames and the new arena are in a position to get their fair share."

Bettman called building a new arena "vitally important."

"People are going to have to decide what's it worth, what do they want, what's the quality of life in Calgary going to be without a new arena," he said. 

The CalgaryNEXT project calls for hundreds of millions in public funding and no decisions have been made by city council. A report is expected sometime this spring and the city is also reviewing what it's calling Plan B options for a new arena and other sports facilities.