Plans for Calgary’s $890 million recreation centre are flooding the minds of taxpayers

Screen-Shot-2015-09-10-at-1.43.21-PMThe parent company of the Calgary Flames and the Calgary Stampeders, Calgary Sport and Entertainment Corp., wants to build a multimillion dollar facility, called CalgaryNEXT, on a floodplain next to the Bow River but Calgarians have mixed opinions about the massive project.

The underlying concerns centre around CalgaryNEXT’s hefty price tag — $890 million — and it’s a project that could potentially be impacted by a flood.

On Aug. 18, Calgary Flames President and CEO Ken King announced plans for the new event centre, home of the Calgary Flames, the Calgary Stampeders and the National Lacrosse League Calgary Roughnecks. The centre — which includes a 20,000-seat arena and an indoor football stadium/fieldhouse that will seat 30,000 — will be the focal point of a revitalized West Village and have a significant impact on the entire downtown.

On Aug. 24, the Calgary Herald published a story based on opinions of a water expert who questioned the location, on the south side of the Bow River, that a river known to flood needs to be respected.

John Pomeroy, a hydrology professor at the University of Saskatchewan, told the Herald: “The only thing that should be happening in the floodplains in Calgary in terms of development is the development of green spaces.”

“It’s astonishing two years after the flood,” added Pomeroy, who is also the Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change.

In the same article, King insisted CalgaryNEXT does not sit in a floodplain.

Many Calgarians are also concerned about the cost of a project of this magnitude and question its necessity.

On Aug. 23, the Calgary Sun published an article that looked at the cost of major sports facilities in other Canadian cities. It suggested taxpayers might be fronting most of the bill for CalgaryNEXT, “a project which could require up to $690 million in taxpayer funding to cover the estimated $890 million tab.”

In a similar article published a few days earlier by the Calgary Herald, King and Calgary Multisport Fieldhouse Society Chair Jason Zaran both recognized the project will cost a substantial amount of money but it will be money well spent.

Zaran noted the importance of a new multi-sport complex: “It’s amazing how many people still don’t know what a fieldhouse is or why it’s important. Calgary is probably the only remaining city of its size in Canada that doesn’t have one.”

The fieldhouse would be large enough to host professional and Olympic soccer matches.

SADDLEDOMECalgaryNEXT could be the venue that the city needs to improve their entertainment industry.

Photo Courtesy of Cody BattershillDavid Howard, president of The Event Group, is highly supportive of the proposed plans. The Event Group has been facilitating major concerts and hosting elaborate events in Calgary since 1977. In an article in the Calgary Journal published in May, Howard stated, “It’s an investment into the future of Calgary.”

In a recent interview, Howard highlighted how CalgaryNEXT could even help the economy.

“There are a lot of people that are hurting and a lot of people who lost their jobs. This project would put us back on track, back to work for many years and then develop a long lasting icon that we could hang our hat to,” Howard said.

Currently, Calgary does not have a suitable facility to host some of the biggest touring acts. This is a major concern for Howard, noting in the article that the new venue would start to generate revenue quickly, estimating that each big show could generate around $2 million.

“You had Taylor Swift go to Vancouver to a sold out stadium and then go to Edmonton to play twice to a sold out crowd. The reason she missed Calgary was quite simple, we just couldn’t handle her staging and production needs,” Howard said. “CalgaryNEXT is going to house acts like that two at a time.”

Despite the financial concerns and constructing in a floodplain, Howard adds that the Calgary Flames are very deserving of this new arena.

“I’m 100 per cent behind it. First I think that the Calgary Flames have given so much back to this community and continue to do so and it is overlooked. We need a first-class facility, or facilities, and I think (CalgaryNEXT) is that.” 

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