It’s Time for Calgary to Explore a New Event Centre

Posted May 27, 2018

The Saddledome has been a cornerstone of Calgary’s image ever since it was built in 1983. Both symbolic and iconic, the Dome is an architectural masterpiece that has dominated our skyline since it was constructed. However, after 35 years, it is no secret that it is beginning to show its age. Not only has the building reached its lifecycle, but the architectural design that made the Saddledome iconic limits any further renovation capabilities. It is neither simple nor cost-effective to undertake a renovation to see it into operation through the next 35 years.

Currently, the Saddledome is the second-oldest arena being used by an NHL team. Also, for decades, Calgarians wanting to see their favourite musicians have had to make the trek up to Edmonton because the Saddledome’ s architectural limitations make it difficult to accommodate world-class events. As a result, our local economy has lost out to our friends in Edmonton because they have facilities that are modern and flexible.

To me, there is no question that Calgary has outgrown the Saddledome. But where does that bring us?

During the municipal election campaign in 2017, many concerned residents asked me what was going on with talks regarding a new event centre. As you may remember, last September it was announced that negotiations on a deal were effectively off.  In the lead up to the breakdown in talks, the City saw two significant proposals – the CalgaryNEXT site in West Village, and the City’s preferred option in Victoria Park. At the time, I met with Ken King to hear the Flames perspective on the breakdown of talks with the City.

Months have now gone by, and nothing has been done. As an elected official, I’ve had enough. And now I am doing something about it.

I won’t point fingers and place blame on anyone involved in the last round of negotiations – simply put, it is not productive and I am not interested in a game of “he said, she said.”  However, I do firmly believe that if there’s a deal to be made, we need to first get back to a conversation and explore a vision together. When talks broke down the way they did, not one Calgarian benefitted. We all deserve a resolution to the issue.

That is why last month, I filed a Notice of Motion that will create the Event Centre Assesment Committee (“ECAC”). This initial ECAC would be composed of three Councillors, the City Manager, the President of the of Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, along with a number of senior advisors who have expertise in moving Calgary’s economic strategy forward. ECEC will be tasked with exploring a proactive vision for an event centre that takes into account the best interests of all Calgarians.

The Saddledome has reached its lifecycle capacity and a renovation doesn’t make sense due to the architectural constraints of the building. In the meantime: the Dome is the second-oldest arena used in the NHL; Calgary continues to lose revenue on concerts and big events because musicians and shows skip Calgary when planning their tours due to of a lack of space that accommodates their needs.

It is my hope that with this proposed Committee, we will be able to negotiate a future deal that will leave a mark on our City for generations to come. We need vision, and I believe with Council’s leadership we have the potential to realize a facility deserving of all Calgarians. It’s time to get back to the table and talk.