The last time we heard anything about the Calgary Flames‘ arena demands was nearly two years ago, when team execs said they were watching the Edmonton Oilers‘ plans closely; before that, it was way back in 2009 when team CEO Ken King said he hoped to start construction on a new building “as soon as we can.”
Cue Flames president for hockey operations Brian Burke, who yesterday let loose with both barrels at the 31-year-old Calgary Saddledome, calling it “a 1988 building” and “embarrassing”:
“An update on our new home? You know what? We need a new building. Obviously, everyone knows that,” said Burke, president of hockey operations for the Flames, responding to a question from the audience. “We have the finest state-of-the-art 1988 building in the (National Hockey League).”
This is, of course, a time-honored tradition in sports, slagging your current home in an attempt to shame elected officials into helping you build a new one. Of course, given that nothing is imminent on that front — even King admitted back in January that “It’s our hope to announce something, I guess when we’re ready, and we’re not there yet” — you’d think he’d want to worry about driving fans away by telling them their home arena is a dump, but given that the Flames have sold out every game for the last nine years, maybe not. Though it does make you wonder why they “need a new building,” except as a way to make more revenue off of luxury suites and the like, which would more honestly be stated as “We want more money.”
It’s not often that you see a city decide to cut its losses and jettison a deal to bring a pro sports team to town, but that’s just what has happened in the small British Columbia city of Abbotsford, which has terminated its deal with the minor-league Abbotsford Heat hockey franchise after five years and $7.2 million in losses:
The [Calgary] Flames were persuaded to leave town for $5.5-million, as Abbotsford was staring at annual losses of about $2-million, estimated at a total of $11-million, before the deal expired. The hockey team likely will move to New York State. While Abbotsford has cut off potential losses, it is left with a gleaming arena – including 15 luxury boxes – with no primary tenant.
The deal for the Flames’ top minor-league club was supposed to last ten years, but was apparently a disaster for several completely foreseeable reasons: Abbotsford is Vancouver Canucks fan territory, it’s a huge travel distance from the rest of the AHL, etc. Thanks to this terrible planning, plus one of those horrible “Sure, we’ll cover all your team’s losses, why not?” deals that someone should really be staging interventions when elected officials even consider them, the city will now be on the hook for a total of $12.7 million in subsidies and buyout, plus the initial $64 million it paid to build the Abbotsford Centre, but at least maybe now it can book some more concerts that Canucks fans won’t mind going to see.
But I know what you’re thinking: Enough about Abbotsford, what does this say about Chilliwack? Never let it be said I don’t have you covered.
So there were huge floods in Alberta starting Friday, and the Calgary Flames failed to seal all the doors at the Saddledome, and … this happened:
“It’s shocking what we are looking at,” said Libby Raines, VP Building Operations for the Calgary Flames.
“You’re eyeballing it but there’s a lot of water and it’s up to the 8th, 9th or tenth row. However, from the last report it doesn’t appear it has risen at all since then.”
Indeed that means the rink, the ice plant and a few thousand seats are submerged by the shocking overflow that swept over Stampede Park and the downtown core.
It also means the dressing rooms, the Jumbotron nerve centre, the Ed Whalen Lounge and the Hot Stove Lounge are all likely destroyed, as well. Plenty of history will likely be ruined too, including a massive championship team photo from 1989 signed by most team members that hangs outside the Flames dressing room.
The good news is that Flames CEO Ken King says insurance should cover the damage, there should be time to get the building operational in time for the upcoming NHL season, and this won’t be used as an excuse to hurry the team’s slow-burning plans for a new arena. Meanwhile: disaster porn!
Just in case you were wondering if the Calgary Flames are still looking to get a new arena like they hinted at three years ago: Oh yeah, the Calgary Flames are still looking to get a new arena.
Oilers president Patrick LaForge uses the cycling term “drafting” to describe how closely the Flames have been following Edmonton’s quest for a new arena…
However, in light of the fact Edmonton’s $475-million building plans made like Lance Armstrong and were quashed last week, one wonders what sort of implications it will have on Calgary’s bid for new digs.
“It has no effect on us,” assured Flames president Ken King.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi responded that “it is extremely difficult to justify spending very scarce public money on a professional sports arena,” but also called the Flames owners “very decent, honourable people” who are “not out to screw the public.” NBCsports.com says this means “the Flames ownership does have the respect of the current Mayor,” which I guess it does, at least compared to the scene unfolding across the province.
The Calgary Flames arena push heated up this week, with team president Ken King saying the team wants to begin construction “as soon as we can.”
That could be a while yet, though. The team still hasn’t picked a site, or figured out financing for a new arena. City and provincial elected officials have all promised that no public money will go into arena construction, but notably didn’t promise that no taxpayers funds would go for any part of an arena project: Alberta premier Ed Stelmach said he’d consider funding improvements to a light-rail line serving the arena site, while Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier said the city could provide the land.
As for King, he was mum about any funding talk, saying only, “We will make a presentation when and if we seek public funding. In what quantum and if that’s going to take place has not been determined.” I don’t speak fluent Canadian, but that sure sounds to me like: “We’re still trying to figure out what we can get away with.”
If you’re wondering how old you have to be to be considered “antiquated,” the Canwest News Service has an answer for you:
It has born three different names in its 26-year history and has even been compared by U.S. media to a potato chip, but Calgary’s iconic Saddledome is earning yet another tag: old.
The home of the Calgary Flames is “nearing the end of its life cycle,” according to the Canwest report, and the Edmonton Oilers‘ Rexall Place, born the same year as Alanis Morissette, is “even more dated.” While neither team is currently in serious talks for new arenas, the rest of the article is dedicated to investigating who will pay for what’s deemed the inevitable, with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on hand to declare, “For their future well-being and for the comfort of their fans, both teams need new arenas.” Actual fans seem less certain.