Goodbye, Saddledome? Flames unveil plans for new arena

The Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary is one of the most unique buildings in professional sports. It’s also fairly old and its days just may be numbered.

The Calgary Flames announced Tuesday its plans for an $890 million arena project that would include a new home for the NHL club and a new football/soccer stadium right next door.

The Calgary Herald has more on where that money is expected to come from:

The $890-million budget would be paid from four sources — a $240-million community revitalization levy, a $250-million ticket tax, $200 million from the city to fund the fieldhouse, and a $200-million contribution from the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, the Flames’ ownership group.

The development, dubbed ‘CalgaryNEXT,’ is proposed for land west of downtown, in the community of Sunalta, near an existing Greyhound bus station, auto dealership and a recently built LRT station.

Based on that breakdown, the Flames will be seeking around $700 million in public funds to complete the project.

Additionally, the project costs could rise up to $1.2 billion if the football stadium and hockey arena end up being built individually according to Global News in Calgary. If the Flames are only kicking in $200 million, that's a huge ask of the local government.

Here's a look at the rendering of the new complex via the CalgaryNEXT:

The Herald also reports that the Calgary city council is opposed to taxpayer subsidies for sports arenas, while Alberta's Premier is keeping an open mind on a provincial investment. So this is far from a done deal at this point, but the Flames will continue trying to sell a dream facility to their city and provincial governments.

Apparently the land they propose to build on also requires a massive cleanup due to creosote contamination. According to the Calgary Herald, cleanup costs have been previously estimated between $50 million and $300 million, but a new study has been commissioned to examine the site. It is unclear at this point who would be responsible for paying for the cleanup.

Update: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi issued a lengthy statement on the Flames' announcement. After listing off a number of challenges the proposal faces, Nenshi said this:

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

"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. 

"City Council will ensure that that there is significant public engagement and will work cooperatively with the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation and the other orders of government to determine whether this project is viable." 

The NHL, as expected, is throwing its support behind the Flames in this endeavor.

“The Calgary Flames are an exemplary member of the National Hockey League and 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,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “While this is an extremely important initiative for the team, it is even more important for Calgary’s fans and community.”

The Saddledome is now 32 years old. Thanks to its unique architecture and history as an Olympic venue have made it one of Calgary’s most iconic structures. However, floods in 2013 damaged the building and other NHL organizations have managed to escape their outdated homes. That includes Calgary’s Albertan neighbors, the Edmonton Oilers, who will be playing in the $480 million Rogers Place starting in 2016-17.

Public funding for professional sports arenas remains a hot topic ripe for debate. With the figures being thrown around for this project, expect scrutiny to be heavy as these plans progress.

The Saddledome's days may be numbered as Flames announced plans for a new arena. (USATSI)
The Saddledome's days may be numbered as Flames announced plans for a new arena. (USATSI)
CBS Sports Writer

Chris Peters has been a hockey writer for CBS Sports since 2012. Prior to that, he wrote for numerous outlets and edited the United States of Hockey blog, covering the sport at all levels. Peters also... Full Bio

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