Calgary

Reports show concrete on Saddledome roof is crumbling

Documents obtained by CBC News through Alberta's Freedom of Information legislation show that pieces of concrete have fallen loose from the roof's ring beam while other crumbling pieces have been removed to prevent them from falling.

Engineering firm says 'condition of the concrete around the ring beam is worsening at an accelerated rate'

Reports show age, weather are crumbling parts of Scotiabank Saddledome's roof

3 months ago
Duration 1:27
Chunks of concrete fell onto a roof structure below which is over the Saddledome's west steps.

Part of the roof of Calgary's Scotiabank Saddledome is falling apart. Literally.

Documents obtained by CBC News through Alberta's Freedom of Information legislation show that pieces of concrete have fallen loose from the roof's ring beam while other crumbling pieces have been removed to prevent them from falling.

Engineering firm Entuitive recommended that there be inspections each spring and fall to monitor any deteriorating conditions of the concrete which have been caused by annual freeze-thaw cycles.

In April 2021, the firm sent a letter to the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC)  — which operates the publicly owned building — advising that sections of loose concrete were removed.

But it also stated that "the condition of the concrete around the ring beam is worsening at an accelerated rate."

Earlier this year, netting was installed around the ring beam to catch any pieces of concrete that "appeared to be imminently ready to fall."

A picture in the engineering firm's report shows a piece of concrete which was removed from the Saddledome's ring beam. (Submitted by Entuitive)

Not a structural concern

Pictures in a 2018 report show what happens when concrete breaks free and falls from the roof beam.

Chunks of concrete fell onto a roof structure below which is over the Saddledome's west steps. The heavy material punched a jagged hole in the structure. 

The engineering reports note the problems with the concrete on the ring beam are of a superficial nature and do not present a structural concern for the roof itself.

The City of Calgary refused requests for an interview on the subject.

However, a senior official who is familiar with the reports and the Saddledome told CBC News that there are no concerns about the stability of the roof or for public safety.

The official said a full remediation plan to stabilize the concrete is expected in coming months and a plan to fix the problem will be implemented.

As the work plan has not yet been presented, he said it isn't known how long the work will take to complete or how much it might cost.

Concrete which fell from Saddledome's ring beam punched a hole in the roof of the covering for the building's west entrance. (Submitted by Entuitive)

Council needs information

The chair of city council's event centre committee, Coun. Sonya Sharp, said she had not seen the engineering reports.

She said that council has been given high level briefings on the building's condition but nothing detailed.

"I'm not an engineer and I will definitely admit that but to understand exactly from administration how secure and safe the building is for the general public is very important for council to understand," said Sharp.

She plans to ask senior administration officials to reveal reports to council members and the public about the Saddledome's condition.

Her committee is tasked with finding a way to build a new event centre for Calgary which would replace the Saddledome, which opened in 1983.

The city's general manager of infrastructure services, Michael Thompson, said the city is monitoring the situation and does semi-annual inspections.

"The building is currently safe and structurally sound, so we're continuing to evaluate and review if any further requirements are needed," he said.

"Buildings of this age require maintenance, just like any other building or facility that we have." 

The NHL's Calgary Flames have a lease with the city to operate the building until 2033.

The team's ownership group, CSEC, is responsible for paying for the building's upkeep, although responsibility for any major repairs to the Saddledome rests with the City of Calgary.

City seeking new deal

A deal between the city and the owners of the Flames on a new building slated to cost more than $600 million fell apart last December when CSEC walked away from the agreement, citing rising costs.

On Wednesday, the city said it's making progress in talks with the owners of the Calgary Flames on a deal.

Sharp said there was a confidential briefing for the committee. Although no details are being released, she says talks are progressing.

"The city, through the third party, is talking to CSEC, and we should all remain very optimistic that that's going to continue." 

In May of this year, the city hired three officials from the commercial real estate sector to approach CSEC about the potential for restarting talks on a new arena.

No recommendations have been made yet on a potential path forward, but city council has thrown its support behind the idea of building a new downtown arena that would replace the Saddledome.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Scott Dippel

Politics Reporter

Scott Dippel has been at CBC News for more than two decades across four provinces. His roles have included legislative reporter, news reader, assignment editor and national reporter. When not at Calgary's City Hall, it's still all politics, all the time.

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