Yesterday, the official release of CalgaryNEXT wowed the city of Calgary, its residents and hockey fans worldwide. A proposed multi-purpose stadium, events centre and Flames arena in West Village accompanies a variety of uses and has the potential to transform the city.
Calgary Sports and Entertainment President and CEO, Ken King, has massive plans for an $890 million facility to be the new home of the Flames and Stampeders. The project will be one large building, with an events centre and ice rink adjacent to a fieldhouse that can be transformed into a CFL or FIFA pitch.
Calgary has wanted a new fieldhouse for quite some time, and they have claimed it to be one of the top priorities in the city. Clearly the Flames knew they had to include this in the pitch, which has been ongoing for more than seven years.
In his press conference with the media, King said his team explored every possible area in the city for a new stadium project, but West Village made the most sense. Currently, the Greyhound Station and two car dealerships are among some of the places in the way, but the Flames have already had dialogue with these groups. It has also been discovered two car dealerships have out-clauses in their contracts, in anticipation that this could one day happen.
There are two substantial obstacles with this area: land contamination and increased traffic.
Land remediation is needed, as the intended location is contaminated with creosote. Estimates have said it will costs between $50 million and $300 million, so a new study is being done to determine exact costs. So far, neither the city of Flames have committed to paying for this. This has been a problem since the 1950s, so cleaning it up now would provide a solution.
Bow Trail also runs right through Sunalta, and with a massive building placed here, the roadways would potentially need to be altered. King mentioned in his presentation he lives how the Bow would be on either side of the facility, but things might change during construction. Parking will be limited according to King, but the LRT station of Sunalta is directly across from the proposed location. It’s uncommon for large arenas to lack parking, especially with the volume of fans that enter gates, but the Flames seem confident in the transit system.
The financial breakdown has been one of the largest topics of discussion amongst doubters and supporters. While the Flames have promised to pay $200 million themselves (which is rare, as private funders often avoid paying), that still leaves $690 million to be paid by the city and public.
As mentioned above, the city has desires for a fieldhouse, so the proposed budget shows the municipality paying $200 million for that portion of the project.
The Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) collects dollars through property tax revenues, then redistributes to the Rivers District Community Revitalization Plan. According to the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, approximately $357 million has been allocated to East Village infrastructure, so it has been done in the past.
Lastly, the remaining $250 million will come from a ticket tax, which is a portion of ticket prices that will be pooled to pay for this. CalgaryNEXT’s website says the prices ‘may increase’, but it’s safe to assume they will climb, potentially even this season.
There are still numerous hurdles to overcome, as highlighted in a statement by Mayor Naheed Nenshi. Leading the way is the land contamination.
In addition, Nenshi is worried the ticket tax might have to be paid upfront by the city in order to have funds available first. He also mentioned the fact the city’s budget is determined through 2018, so construction might have to wait a few years.
Premier Rachel Notley has been quoted as saying she’ll “keep an open mind to provincial funding”, so this could ease the financial burden as well.
This is an area that King noted could dramatically increase in density, so with development of housing and offices, the city’s urban sprawl might reduce. CalgaryNEXT’s site also claims this venture will have a positive effect on surrounding real estate.
The slogan of LIVE | WORK | PLAY fits well with the message from the Flames that it is a project for everybody. Sports fans get to enjoy games at state-of-the-art facilities, fitness buffs can use the fieldhouse, and the surrounding area can be developed for homes and workplaces for many. The Flames say they believe commercial and residential developers will flock to Sunalta and rush to build up the location.
Of course, there will be increased traffic as mentioned earlier, but the group plans to upgrade the Sunalta LRT station and increase the flow coming in.
While there are many challenges, this is something that would change Calgary dramatically. As East Village is currently expanding and get developed, adding a refurbished West Village would truly engage the Calgary core. Higher-tier free agents would want to play in this new facility and the fan experience would only go up. Heck, this could even be a part of a Calgary Olympic and Paralympic bid!
Edmonton underwent the same debate before they greenlit the new Rogers Place, which will open next year. It came with a $600 million cost that required public money from the city and levy, plus some private funding.
We’re excited for what will come of this plan. Although it’s still at least five years from fruition, the dreams and planning start now. Go Flames!
Written by: NEIL HILTS