Design & Development

Calgary Flames reaches agreement over C$1.2bn arena district project

A rendering of a previous plan for Calgary Flames’ new arena

Featured image credit: Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation

A rendering of a previous plan for Calgary Flames’ new arena

Featured image credit: Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation

The National Hockey League’s (NHL) Calgary Flames will get a new arena to replace the ageing Saddledome under a deal between the team’s ownership and city and provincial governments.

Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp (CESC) – which owns the Saddledome and the Flames – and the City of Calgary, Alberta government and Calgary Stampede heritage society announced the finalised deal on Tuesday.

City officials said the C$800m events arena – the new home of the Flames and an arena that could attract major artists to Calgary – will be the centre-point of a C$1.2bn culture and entertainment district located in the downtown Rivers District.

According to a statement issued by the parties, the City of Calgary’s contribution is 44% of the total C$1.2bn cost with the Province of Alberta and CSEC contributing the remaining 56%. The event centre will cost C$800m, with more than C$200m to be spent on transportation improvements and local infrastructure. The total figure is significantly higher than the C$608.5m attributed to a previous plan, which was ultimately cancelled in December 2021 due to concerns over cost.

Looking forward, the City of Calgary will begin formal discussions on definitive agreements with all parties, which is expected to be underway through spring and summer 2023. The project team is preparing to begin the design and development of the event centre, as well as the supporting infrastructure in the area.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said: “This new arena and event centre will be at the heart of Calgary’s sports, entertainment and cultural scene for generations, and will result in billions of dollars of economic activity and a higher quality of life for millions of Albertans.

“The memories experienced here by families and friends will contribute invaluably to the fabric and spirit of this city for decades. Calgary is a vibrant world class city deserving and in need of world class facilities.”

CSEC, in addition to their Event Centre investment, will continue to make community sports payments, to the tune of $1.5m annually. Some C$50m is to be spent on a community rink.

CSEC president and chief executive John Bean said: “We are excited to be part of the announcement of a new event centre and community rink that will both be home for the Calgary Flames, Calgary Hitmen, Calgary Roughnecks and Calgary Wranglers. And this announcement will help us put Calgary and the Province back on the map for all major North American concerts.

“We would like to thank Premier Smith, Mayor Gondek, Councillor Sharp and CEO Cowley for their leadership in helping to create the vision for this project and the environment for it to proceed.”

CSEC exited a previous project to develop a new 19,000-seat arena (pictured) for the Flames in December 2021. The project was first unveiled in 2019 but faced a number of contentious moments.

A statement at the time said that CSEC and the City of Calgary had been unable to resolve a number of issues relating to the escalating costs of the project.

When the agreements were first executed back in December 2019 the parties agreed to a 50/50 cost sharing arrangement with respect to the design and construction of the new event centre. In July 2021, with these costs increasing to C$608.5m, the city informed CSEC they were not able to fund their 50% share which, under the terms of the Project Framework Agreement, would have resulted in termination at that time.

Instead, CSEC agreed to fund a disproportionate share (C$321m to the city’s C$287.5m) and agreed to accept the risk of reasonable future design and construction cost increases related to the event centre. The project was suspended in April 2021 due to a “difference” in the budget estimate and the programme requirements for the facility.