Saddledome nearly ready to open after a remarkable, exhaustive renovation due to June’s flooding
Workers pulled off a miracle, grinding for 69 24-hour days straight to finish what should have been a six-month repair job
Technically, the first tenants are The Eagles on Sept. 11.
But a few days later, on Sept. 14 when the Calgary Flames host the Edmonton Oilers, the Scotiabank Saddledome will officially be back in business.
“There are lots of people doing lots of work,” said Flames president Ken King on Thursday, prior to allowing media to take a peek at their newly renovated home. “The concrete has been chilled for the last couple of days and is working. You’ll see new seats, you’ll see new glass. There are things that still have the wrapper on. Every piece of equipment below decks here is brand new.
“Every piece of cutlery, every kitchen. We haven’t turned a stove on. We haven’t cooked a hamburger or made a piece of toast, but everything is in place to go.”
And that, in itself, is a miracle.
About seventy-five days ago, the entire building had been under 10 feet of water when Calgary and southern Alberta were hit with intense flooding. Everything from Row 8 of the lower bowl had been destroyed. Anything with soft surfaces including around 2,500 seats — gone. Compressors that run the ice plant? Gone. Electrical equipment — also gone. Training equipment, jerseys, hockey gear, team memorabilia couldn’t be salvaged. Silt and muddy water was everywhere.
“Everything that could float, did float,” said Rob Blanchard, a structural engineer by trade who is the director of building operations for the Saddledome. “And because it wasn’t just a nice static rise in water, it was a torrent, everything got moved all over. When the water was pumped out, it landed wherever. We had desks on top of the stationary bikes, filing cabinets floating out in the middle of the ice slab.
“It was like someone had set a bomb off in here and things flew all over and landed wherever.”
However, as promised several months ago by King himself, the Saddledome will indeed be open when the team drops the puck on the 2013/14 National Hockey League season. Sooner, in fact.
Fans shouldn’t see a difference from the event level and even the lower bowl as the ice surface and lower bowl seating was restored exactly how it was before the flooding.
And, as for players, coaches, media, and support staff who work on the event level, only subtle differences are visible. Even stalls and the carpet in the Flames dressing room resemble the old room almost identically (aside from a new motto posted above the stalls, “It’s All About Commitment,” which replaces their “Every Game Matters” tag line from previous years).
King, who wouldn’t put a dollar figure on the property loss however, had said when the flooding happened, putting the building back into service was the priority — the flood damage did not fast-track or delay the team’s plans for a new rink.
So, relying on photos and the memory of staff, they got to work.
“That was the intent,” Blanchard said. “To put things back together exactly as they were. There was no use throwing a lot of extra money at this building because you’re left with the same dysfunctional concourse above (the ground) level so why have a completely up-to-date event level when nothing else is the way we want it.
“It was the quickest way of doing it.”
And time was a luxury they didn’t have.
Blanchard said a redesign would have taken months longer. So, the contractors arrived and the work started before they had construction work permits or plans in place. All of it equated to 69 days straight of two shifts of 12 hours (with 300-400 workers during the day; 150-200 at night).
“We compressed a six-month job into two months,” Blanchard said. “There were about 650,000-man hours put in on this project in two months ... I’m surprised we’re at the level we’re at right now. I knew we’d be able to put on events, concerts and hockey. But to have the level of finishing we have now, I didn’t think that was possible.
“We’re good to go though, now.”
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