Flames stay mum on timeline, location for new arena
Clock ticking on Saddledome lease deal
“We certainly won’t be ready to move by 2014,” says Ken King, Flames president and CEO, about speculation on the team’s plans for a new arena when its lease runs out.
Photograph by: Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald
With the lease on the Scotiabank Saddledome set to run out in 2014 after more than three decades of hockey games and concerts, speculation continues to build about the location of a new arena.
The Calgary Flames want a modern building to allow the team to compete financially with other National Hockey League franchises. Opened in 1983, the Saddledome is the league’s sixth-oldest arena and nearing the end of its life cycle as far as professional rinks go.
But as the clock ticks on Calgary’s iconic sports facility, Flames officials remain tight-lipped about when — and where — they will break ground on a new arena.
Team president and CEO Ken King said there isn’t any hurry. Although the Flames’ lease on the Saddledome will soon expire, it can be extended for as long it takes to construct a new facility.
“We certainly won’t be ready to move by 2014,” King said.
“If we dropped the flag and started building today, I don’t think we’d meet the deadline. We have an arrangement to be here as long or frankly, as short, as required.”
Many rumoured locations for a downtown arena have circulated since the Flames first announced their plans to build a new home.
In 2009, the Flames identified two potential sites, including one on the Stampede grounds. At the time, a source familiar with the plans said it could include a demolition of the Big Four Building on the west side of the grounds along Macleod Trail, near the Erlton-Stampede LRT stop.
But circumstances have since changed. The Flames are now the majority owners of the Calgary Stampeders, and with McMahon Stadium also showing its age, a sports complex to accommodate both hockey and football may be necessary.
One possibility floated on Twitter Friday describes a combined arena/stadium near the Mewata armoury with commercial space, possibly for restaurants, bars or a hotel.
King declined to comment. “I’m not going to affirm or deny any speculation on possible sites,” he said. “Let me say that what we’re thinking about could be one of the defining projects in our city for many decades to come, but if discussed prematurely would just be totally unhelpful to all the stakeholders involved.”
Ald. Andre Chabot, who sits on the Stampede Board, said he is not aware of a proposal to build a sports complex near the armoury.
No one has officially approached city council about it, according to Ald. Druh Farrell.
“I imagine it would be a spicy debate. The appropriateness of a stadium in an urban centre is a controversial topic, although I do know that stadiums are less reliant on surface parking,” she said.
As for the rumours about a new arena in the redesigned East Village — not true, said Farrell. “There’s been rumblings about that for years. I can say that is not on the table — East Village is out.”
Plans for a new arena in Calgary come as the Edmonton Oilers nudge closer to breaking ground on a new sports facility to replace the aging Rexall Place, built in 1974. The team hopes to skate there to start the 2015-16 NHL season.
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