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Calgary Flames

Brett Wilson wants a new arena for the Calgary Flames

Nashville Predators minority-owner Brett Wilson brings his knowledge and experience to hometown Calgary



Riding the Nashville High

On “leadership” and “vision” – or lack there of, cites Calgary Entrepreneur / Philanthropist of city council activities, err lack of urgency in agreeing to the Flames’ owners deal.

View GlobalTV interview.

Brett Wilson soundbites:

‘[If you] build it, they [will] come’ motto works fine and dandy in ‘Field of Dreams’. The sports mojo ran its gamut in Nashville Predators Stanley Cup run.

The city of Nashville built a sports arena in 1996 in hopes to attract a NBA team, with a NHL team being consolation prize. It was during the 1998 NHL expansion draft that the Nashville Predators planted roots in humble ‘country music city’.

The downtown sports and entertainment district built in Nashville is the economic engine – the sports arena attracting purposeful economic activity with the increase in density. Took the community a decade to gel, but this months cup run proves that Nashville is a hockey town, built on a community gathering model.

As for Calgary – the Calgary Flames have been a household name since the Atlanta Flames 1980 relocation. Quick to be embraced by Calgarians, with the Lanny Mcdonald, Al Macinnis ‘89 team Stanley Cup win, and infamous Battle of Alberta match-ups with the Edmonton Oilers – creating/maintaining ‘community spirit’ is hardly an issue. However, the Saddledome was instrumental in bringing the ‘88 Winter Olympics to the city of Calgary, thence Wilson’s point on economic engine catalyst for future tourism.

Moreover, afterall – sports is entertainment – cue in Julius Caesar roman gladiator games. Some may even see sports as a distraction – peaking from under the sheep wool and seeing the corporate profiteers masquerading under the guise of market socialism.

Case studies:

Edmonton Oilers (Rogers Place) – $450M for arena only, $614M including ‘Ice District’ development. The City of Edmonton will be funding more than half the project with a loan, and with the use of the community revenue levy (CRL).

The opening of Rogers Place was met with positive reviews by locals – expressing a renewed sense of city pride and overall energetic buzz in the city. The city has also since seen an increase in world music tours and concerts, pulling in tourism revenue.

Detroit Red Wings (Little Caesars Palace) – During economic downturn the city has agreed to funding ‘The District Detroit’ in attempt to bolster the city’s economy by creating new jobs associated with the development of a downtown arena district. Set at upwards of $860M in area development, including a new arena as a sports and concert venue.

Set to open September 2017. Already booked with sporting events, and concerts.

Saddledome history:

1983 – Sports arena built in Stampede Park, replacing Stampede Corral as home to NHL Flames

1988 – City of Calgary hosts Winter Olympics

1989 – Calgary Flames win Stanley Cup Championship

1996 – Operational change

2013 – Alberta flood damage

The city’s cultural history is closely tied to the Calgary Stampede – an outdoor festival that has had positive effects on Calgary tourism. Victoria Park is an integral part of the Calgary Stampede – CMLC made this connection when spearheading the revitalization of ‘East Village’ and envisioning the ‘River District’.

‘West Village’ blue prints a hazard zone:

During the CalgaryNEXT press conference Ken King mentions that flooding has occurred across the river – however, not on the floodplain adjacent to the bow river, where Calgary Sport and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) propose the city build the multi-purpose sports facility project.

‘One of Canada’s leading water experts is questioning the wisdom of building a multimillion-dollar sports complex on the edge of the Bow River.’

Along with Kings floodplain dismissal, was another issue – that of creosote contamination.

Calgary's creosote contamination problem tricky to resolve, says U of C prof

King uses the sound bite ‘catalyst’ in different context than Wilson. He presumes the ‘catalyst’ is a gift to make purposeful a contaminated land – that may otherwise go unused. The environmental remediation is ironically one of the CSEC’s main rhetoric points to persuade public opinion.

‘Victoria Park’ option:

A ‘land swap agreement’ between The City of Calgary and Stampede Committee would be needed to push this option forward.

Calgary Stampede working with the city as a partner.

River District vision includes Victoria Park, and Calgary Stampede grounds.

Although the Victoria Park option does not include an upgrade for Calgary’s CFL team, the Calgary Stampeders – I do think it’s the better option in regards to infrastructure already put up. The area is a place to be revitalized, not an economic wasteland. The CMLC development plan would create that high-density sports & entertainment downtown district- close to arts & culture venues.

As for McMahon stadium – it is owned by the University of Calgary, and maybe in the future the CSEC who also owns the Stampeders can strike a football stadium ‘West Village’ proposal – once remediation efforts have been made. Having a CFL stadium in the downtown area would help with the high-density pitch. The northwest corner location would allow for better collaboration with the University sports and support facility as well.

The financial pie doesn’t change much here – public money is still used for majority of the project, as in most cases. The upside is the rebirth of a historically important part of the city – with the CMLC already getting a head start on utilizing a community revenue levy (CRL) that was also proposed in the CalgaryNEXT pitch.

A new arena – doubled as a concert venue will only bring more revenue for the city, so the experienced view of successful businessmen has some merit. (Now if only they could learn how to dress themselves).

The Calgary Flames have the most outdated arena in the league – they need a new home. Hoping Mayor Naheed Nenshi can get the Victoria Park option going soon.

Excerpt re: Stadiums – What would John Oliver do.

by Renu Sahota