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Saddledome prepares to host concerts, hockey after flood

The Canadian Press

9/5/2013 5:52:21 PM

CALGARY -- An Eagles concert, not a hockey game, will be the first event in the Scotiabank Saddledome after floodwaters destroyed its lower levels in June.

The rock band's back-to-back shows on Sept. 11 and 12 will serve as test events for the Saddledome, which is looking much like it did prior to June 21 when the Elbow River gushed into the event level, rose to the eighth row of seats and submerged the Calgary Flames dressing room.

"We're back in business," Ken King, president of Calgary Flames and Entertainment Corporation, declared Thursday.

About 2,500 seats have been replaced and a new ice plant was installed. Ice is back on the arena surface and the glass along the boards has been erected, albeit still swathed in packing paper.

The work isn't finished. The event level was full of ladders and crews, but the arena received its occupancy permit last Friday, according to King.

"Every piece of equipment below decks here is brand new," he said. "Every piece of cutlery. We haven't turned a stove on. We haven't cooked a hamburger or made a piece of toast, but everything is in place to go. We'll have a trial run pretty quick."

NHL main camps open Sept. 11. The Flames will hold training camp in a different arena, but King expects their first exhibition game Sept. 14 to be played at the Saddledome.

The event level is the lowest floor in the building and the nerve centre for concerts and hockey games.

Kitchens, hockey jerseys and equipment, staff uniforms and the electronics that operate the massive scoreboard are just a few examples of what the 30-year-old Saddledome lost in the floods that swept through southern Alberta.

The arena is an important concert venue for the annual Calgary Stampede. KISS, the Dixie Chicks and Tim McGraw were forced to reschedule and the Carly Rae Jepson concert was cancelled.

But King calls the Saddledome's restoration "miraculous."

"Seventy-five days ago we would have been standing under nine feet of water," Robert Blanchard, director of building operations for the Saddledome, said from the event level.

"In that time, it's probably been about 650,000 man hours put into the building to get it back to where it is. That's about a six-month project we compressed into two months."

There was no time for fancy upgrades and contractors had to work quickly without blueprints, Blanchard said.

"We're doing all this reconstruction based on photos and people's memories because our drawing room was down on this level and all the drawings are probably floating around Medicine Hat right now," he said.

King did not put a price tag on the arena's recovery.

"We haven't talked about that much," he said. "It's a big number in terms of business interruption and property loss."