Calgary

New Calgary arena for Flames, Stampeders in West Village to cost $900M

The group that owns the Calgary Flames hockey club and Stampeders football team has revealed plans for a $900-million project to build a new home for the two teams.

Proposal for 20,000-seat CalgaryNEXT arena includes new hockey rink, CFL stadium and public fieldhouse

This is a rendering of the new Flames sporting complex. (Calgary Flames)

The group that owns the Calgary Flames hockey club and Stampeders football team has revealed plans for a $900-million project to build a new home for the two teams.

The plan calls for a 20,000-seat arena that would replace the Scotiabank Saddledome where the NHL Flames currently play.

It also includes a 30,000-seat indoor football stadium for the CFL Stampeders that would also serve as a fieldhouse.

"We're going to have retractable seats," said Flames CEO Ken King, explaining how the football field and 400-metre running track will co-exist.

King said the sports complex, which had been dubbed CalgaryNEXT ahead of Tuesday's unveiling, will be for everyone.

The proposed new sportsplex in Calgary's West Village will completely transform the area and provide the impetus to clean up land long contaminated by creosote, says Flames CEO Ken King. (Calgary Flames)

"It's not for the elites. It's not for the hockey players, not for the football players. It's for all of the citizens in our city," he said as he unveiled drawings that also showed several new condo and commercial towers and a hotel surrounding the new sports facilities.

King revealed that the "live, work, play" development is planned for the West Village, an area at the western edge of Calgary's downtown along the Bow River where the city's Greyhound bus depot and two car dealerships now sit.

The land will need to be decontaminated as it was the site of a creosote wood-treatment plant until the 1960s.

King said the project will finally provide the impetus for a group effort to get the land cleaned up. 

"Nothing good is easy. But doing nothing is really easy. And this is the antithesis of doing nothing, I assure you," he said.

The plan calls for the project to be funded through a $250-million ticket tax, a $240-million community levy, $200 million from team ownership and $200 million from city taxpayers for the fieldhouse.

Calgary Flames CEO Ken King says it makes sense to put the new sportsplex in the West Village because of the proximity to the Sunalta C-Train station. (Calgary Flames)

Fieldhouse funds?

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said in a written statement that the proposal is intriguing, but he said it raises several concerns.

He says the city's capital funds are fully allocated through 2018, and while a fieldhouse is a high priority, there is no money set aside for it. It's also unclear if the city will be asked to provide up-front financing for the $250-million ticket tax, and how the land decontamination work will be funded.

"Therefore, there are very significant requirements for public funding beyond the fieldhouse funding, and there is currently no money," he said.

"I have said for a long time — and continue to strongly believe — that public money must be for public benefit and not private profit. The question for council, the ownership group, and all Calgarians is whether this proposal meets that test."

Evan Woolley, the councillor for the area, joined King for the announcement along with Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart. He's having discussions with all the surrounding communities about the hurdles associated with the project.

"There's still environmental challenges there, but I'm optimistic because this is an idea for us to take a step forward to fixing a problem that has been sitting there since the '50s," he said.

The Flames ownership group is proposing the new stadium-arena-fieldhouse complex be paid for with a $250-million ticket tax, a $240-million community levy, $200 million from team ownership and $200 million from city taxpayers for the fieldhouse. (Calgary Flames)

Bettman on board

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman welcomed the announcement.

"The NHL is excited to learn that Calgary is taking the next step toward the introduction of a state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility for its community and professional sports teams," he said in a written statement. 

King says the time has come to replace both the Saddledome, built in 1983, and the 55-year-old McMahon Stadium in northwest Calgary.

The Saddledome could be re-purposed as exhibition and trade-show space, he says. The Flames ownership group will work with the Calgary Stampede on that issue, he said.

But McMahon Stadium, which is owned by the University of Calgary, should probably be torn down, King said. 

"What you're left with is a beautiful transit-oriented development opportunity," he said. "It's a very, very valuable opportunity for a university."

Nick Twyman, the president of the Sunalta Community Association, says the new inner-city sports complex could be good for his area.

"There's a lot of poverty in our neighbourhood, a lot of low-income housing. We want something like this to bring opportunities for people in our neighbourhood and to make our neighbourhood a better place as well," he said.

King said the new sportsplex would take about three years to build. He said his most ambitious timeline is to see a ribbon-cutting five years from now.

Calgarians took to Twitter after the announcement. See a roundup of the reaction below.

With files from CBC News

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