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Flames’ new $800M arena expected to open for 2026-27 season

Scotiabank Saddledome Scotiabank Saddledome - Getty Images

The Calgary Flames are one big step closer to having a new arena to call home after final legal agreements were signed this week.

On Thursday, the government of Alberta, City of Calgary, and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) – the owners of the Flames – announced that they have been given the green light to begin the design and construction of a new $1.2 billion multipurpose event centre that includes an $800 million arena as the new home for the NHL’s Flames.

The project also includes a community rink, as well as outdoor and indoor community gathering places, restaurants and shopping amenities. The facility will be located a block from where the Scotiabank Saddledome sits, in the city’s Victoria Park neighbourhood. Shovels will be in the ground in 2024 and the hope is that the old arena – home of the Flames since 1983 – will be demolished and the new arena ready in time for the 2026-27 season. 

“We’ve never been more encouraged, given the team we’ve put in place, that we’re going to see this through,” CSEC CEO John Bean said.

The new arena will be smaller than the Saddledome, which has a capacity of 19,289, but Bean said it will have a seating capacity of between 18,000 and 18,400. The belief is that the facility will serve all Calgarians and tourists, sports fans or otherwise. 

“You can look at the last five or six buildings that were built [in the NHL] and take elements of each of them,” Bean said of the neighbourhood’s design.

“This revitalization project builds on the momentum that’s steadily picking up steam,” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said at Thursday’s news conference.

“Energy and excitement are growing as Calgarians anticipate everything the new Rivers District and new arena will bring to the city.”

Smith, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, and other provincial and city officials were on hand for the announcement at city hall. The initial arena deal between CSEC, the province, and city was reached this spring after the previous agreement (which did not include provincial funding and was much smaller in scope) fell apart in December of 2021 over cost overruns. The new project includes the two arenas, as well as transit and roadwork infrastructure around the site. The City of Calgary will contribute $537 million (44 per cent of the total cost), the Alberta government $330 million (27 per cent), and CSEC $356 million (29 per cent). The city will be on the hook for any cost overruns. The province stressed that its contributions would not come from taxpayers.

The agreement also includes a 35-year commitment by Flames ownership to keep the team in Calgary. 

“This project will create better public gathering places, improved transportation networks, a downtown community, and an arena to drive events that spur hosting opportunities along with the creation of jobs in construction, retail, and entertainment sectors,” Gondek said.

“Alberta’s government recognizes the importance of being a key funding partner to help make this ambitious development possible,” Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors Devin Dreeshen said.

Gondek and Smith both touted the benefits Calgarians who aren’t hockey fans will receive in the coming years. 

They explained that 4,000 jobs would be created in the tourism and construction sectors, and that the project includes arts and culture spaces as well. In recent years, Calgary has tried to make its downtown more livable. The city estimates that an additional 8,000 Calgarians will call the downtown core home after the project is complete and that it will attract three million annual visitors to the city.

“All of this means more economic growth and more jobs here in Alberta,” Dreeshen said.

The next steps are the design and construction of the Flames’ new home. CAA Icon, which has worked with several pro sports facilities, including Rogers Place in Edmonton, will manage the development. Architecture and design firms Dialog and HOK will design the facility. 

“We’re going to work collaboratively with the city and Dialog and HOK and with CAA Icon,” Bean explained.

“We’ve got to do a good job of coordinating the development with our friends at the [Calgary] Stampede and make sure we do a thoughtful job of building a district that’s going to work for well beyond just playing hockey,” he said.