Flames arena wasn’t built to last like in Charles Dickens’ day, writes confused Canadian columnist

Here’s an article from the Globe and Mail on the Calgary Saddledome that starts with an extended Charles Dickens reference, because man, oh man, does sportswriting get boring after a while if you don’t mix it up.

Once columnist Roy McGregor gets to the point, it turns out to be that unlike the things Charles Dickens saw on his visit to Canada — and, presumably, Dickens’ works themselves — the Flames‘ arena wasn’t built to last, or at least “wasn’t made to produce revenue in the deep streams demanded these days by professional hockey.” (Whereas Canadian buildings in 1842 were? Hey, it’s not my metaphor.)

This is an assertion we can actually check! Hey, Forbes magazine, how does the Calgary arena compare to the rest of the NHL in revenues? Unfortunately, Forbes doesn’t break down the NHL by venue revenues, but the Flames rank 21st out of 30 overall in the league in total revenues, which is neither great nor awful. They’re about $22 million in annual revenue behind the Edmonton Oilers, the team that’s most often held up as an example of a nearby franchise that got a new arena and is now thriving — spending $1.2 billion on a new arena to get back $22 million a year in new revenue would be spectacularly stupid, which is no doubt why the Flames’ owners want the city of Calgary to spend much of the money instead. And if that strikes you as spectacularly stupid in turn, McGregor has an answer for that: revitalization!

In this era of what he calls “sportainment,” André Richelieu says that, increasingly, arenas are being built as entertainment hubs, the “jewel box,” so to speak of massive developments that go far beyond any sporting event.

Richelieu, who has taught sports marketing at Laval University and is currently a professor at École des sciences de la gestion in Montreal, says “The rationale behind these real estate projects is to trigger traffic all year round in order for the new stadium complex to become a point of convergence for the community and, in some instances, revitalize a neighbourhood.”

Yeah, no, not so much. With numbers like this, maybe it’s understandable that you’d reach for the Dickens quotes instead.


15 comments on “Flames arena wasn’t built to last like in Charles Dickens’ day, writes confused Canadian columnist

  1. Mystery Investors?

    • Maybe it’s the same guys Bettman told us were chomping at the bit to buy the team from Jerry Moyes in 2009.

      Man, are those guys patient…

      • Those guys were the former IceEdge, then IceArizona crew.

        And, we know how that all turned out.

      • Some of them were… Bettman made it clear multiple groups were literally beating down the NHL’s doors to buy the dogs…

  2. Neil, could they just charge $25 more per ticket since they basically sell out most games (well, not lately) in Calgary? That would be about $20M a year in “extra” revenue. It seems like that would be easier on the team than re-configuring a stadium ala Suntrust Park with beer gardens in foul territory for people to not watch themselves get hit with a foul ball? Or would fans not pay the $25 without more “amenities?” I guess I’m old fashioned because I am just wondering why the willingness to pay more would exist.

    • It sure doesn’t seem like new arenas come with a $25/ticket premium. (Though you probably wouldn’t need that much, since there would be concerts and such as well.)

      Anyone know what the average ticket price difference is between Edmonton and Calgary, and what it was before Edmonton opened their new arena?

      • Only anecdotal evidence of ticket prices but they raised them significantly when they moved into the new building, raised them again for this season and are raising them again next year.

        I can only seem to find resale ticket prices which is distorted by efforts to recover sunk costs.

        • http://blog.ticketiq.com/2016/10/2013-14-nhl-average-ticket-prices-team/

          Oilers prices do seem to be significantly higher than the Flames. More corporate money in Calgary seems to get outweighed by the constant ‘This is the year’ hype in Edmonton with all the #1 draft picks year over year.

    • Yes but… having fans pay $25 more to finance a new arena is good. But having fans pay $25 more and having the city build us a new arena, that’s even better, (for the owner).

  3. Calgary basically has no chance for a new arena @taxpayer expense. The options are: 1: Remain as is. 2: Build private. 3: Move to Houston or Quebec. 4: Sell it local investors.

  4. Arena built in the 80s can’t last as long as arenas built much earlier……hue….

  5. There’s a reason Bettman is ramping up the shakedown right now… that “the Oilers did it and make more money” gambit is time limited.

    Yes, ticket prices went waaaay up at the new arena. That tends to happen at new arenas as fans are keen to go get a look at the place (except for the lower bowl, which is and has been for a decade or more mostly corporate seats).

    The Oilers will keep prices up as long as the fanatics will pay. So, really, the only thing working against the fans and in favour of the team is the fan’s own stupidity.

    You know what brings ticket prices down really fast?
    Empty seats.

    If the Flames felt they could get an extra $25/ticket out of their already exploited fan base, they would tack that sum on in a heartbeat. They know that they can’t (doing so would reduce the number of seats sold over the mid to long term and lead to lower overall revenue), so they don’t.

    They might have a 2-4yr window at a new and shiny arena to do that, but increasingly teams are extracting maximum dollars from their fans no matter where they play. Put it this way, if the taxpayer funded arena the Oilers play in collapsed tomorrow and they had to move back into the old coliseum, do you really think prices would go down?

  6. Tkachuck, Backlund and Frolik, it was the best of lines, it was the worst of lines.

  7. Mediocre teams deserve mediocre arenas making mediocre revenue.

    Come back look for a world-class arena when you perform at a world class level, not wallowing in the bottom half with 4 playoff wins in 25 years. 3 of which came in the same year.