Still standing tall at an impressive age of 39 years, the Scotiabank Saddledome, home to the Calgary Flames, is currently the third oldest NHL arena. 

That’s why Calgary’s city council and the Calgary Sport and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) had agreed on a deal in July 2019 to build a new event centre that would replace the Saddledome. Nearly three years later, the deal has been terminated and the future remains unclear. So what happened?

The new centre was expected to be finished sometime between 2024 and 2025, theoretically keeping the Flames in Calgary for the next 35 years.

According to a statement made by CSEC, the deal between the two groups was fairly straightforward. With an initial cost of $550 million, the two parties agreed to split the cost evenly — $225 million funded by the city and $225 million funded by the CSEC.

The original estimated price rose to approximately $608.5 million in July 2021, mainly due to inflation and the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on construction costs. With the rise in cost, CSEC agreed to fund about $321 million in comparison to the city’s $287.5 million, as the city was no longer able to fund their portion of the project anymore.

A new event centre was scheduled to open between 2024 and 2025, replacing the iconic yet outdated, Scotiabank Saddledome. PHOTO COURTESY BY: MATTHEW DEMILLE

In December 2021, the deal between the two parties turned sour. The cost of the event centre had increased by another $25.5 million, topping out at $634 million and once again, CSEC agreed to cover the entire $25.5 million. At this time, the city added an additional $10 million to CSEC’s budget for infrastructure and climate costs, as the city wanted to install solar powered fixtures to the event centre.

This would end up being the final straw in the agreement as CSEC, unbeknownst to many, pulled out of the deal on Dec 21.

The sudden news of the failed agreement left many Calgarians upset and confused as to why a deal, that held firm since 2019, fell apart so quickly 

A Calgary Flames fan poses out front of a closed Scotiabank Saddledome during last year’s NHL season. The Flames played their entire season without fans in attendance. PHOTO COURTESY BY: MATTHEW DEMILLE

Ryan Pike, the managing editor for FlamesNation.ca, an independently owned and operated information and news site about the Flames, wasn’t as surprised by the move.

“In the grand scheme of things, the city had a deal they were comfortable with, but because of economic changes worldwide, I think the Flames became less and less comfortable with the amount of risk they were being asked to take on,” said Pike.

“I think the (Flames) rationale was, if there was going to be any additional costs, they would want to be the ones that were the reason for it happening.”

Pike, who also has a weekly spot on Sportsnet 960’s radio station, went on to explain that the City of Calgary did not want to put all their eggs into one basket either.

“As anyone who has been downtown knows, they’re working on a lot of work for Art Commons, which at the point wasn’t funded yet. They were trying to find some money for the Glenbow, which they ended up getting some private money from thankfully,” said Pike.

While the deal set in 2019 has been emptied into the trash bin, there is still hope that the city and CSEC can agree on a new deal.

In an article written by TSN’s Salim Valji, it was reported that in January, Calgary city council approached CSEC in the hopes of forming another agreement for a new event centre

“They could potentially come up with a deal that works much better for all three parties. As long as the city doesn’t have to sink a lot of my money into things or sink a lot of time into things.” said Pike.

The city has struck a new event centre committee that met for the first time in early April. There is not a timeline for their work, but they have meetings scheduled through October.

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