Calgary commission approves permit for new arena but community concerns still loom

CALGARY –

The Calgary Planning Commission has officially approved design plans for a new arena set to replace the iconic Saddledome in Victoria Park. 

The commission voted unanimously in favour (8-0) of the development permit on Thursday, following a marathon session at city council chambers, however, there are still 70 conditions that must be met before construction on the $608.5-million project can go ahead.

Construction is set for early 2022 and an expected opening is pegged for 2024. 

The city’s contribution for the project is capped at $287.5 million. The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC), which owns the Calgary Flames, will cover the remaining cost plus any possible overruns. CSEC will also oversee operation of the facility, but the arena itself will be owned by the City of Calgary.

The new arena – often referred to as an events centre by the city – will be located at the intersection of Olympic Way and 12th Avenue S.E., and city officials have the bold vision of it being entirely carbon neutral by 2035.

Illustrated renderings show Calgary’s new events centre in Victoria’s Park. (City of Calgary)

Local firm Dialog Architecture and global firm HOK will design the building and have released illustrative renderings which include a parkade on the southeast corner along with a large plaza on the southwest side.

Plans also include the installation of solar panels which will cover 70 per cent of the roof, while also connecting the building to the District Energy Centre located on Ninth Avenue.

The city says it hopes the new arena will become a pillar of the culture and entertainment district in east Victoria Park by implementing more outdoor gathering spaces, retail and restaurants to drive traffic to the area. 

IT’s expected the arena will sit 18,320 people for hockey games, 17,500 people for end-stage concerts, and upwards of 20,000 people for centre-staged events. 

CONCERNS FROM NEARBY COMMUNITIES

While the city received 34 letters of support for the new arena, it also received four letters opposing the construction of the centre. 

Local neighbourhood groups have expressed concerns over the design of the new building, including the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association (BNA).

The BNA says a new planned parking garage within the arena sends the wrong message about Calgary’s environmental priorities, as there will also be outdoor parking and transit stations located nearby.

In a letter to the city, the Victoria Park Business Improvement Area also expressed dissatisfaction that the project had not given enough consideration to the facility’s integration with the Green Line LRT.

The city had said the future Green Line will have a station near the event centre, but community members worry that won’t make as big of an impact.

“Having discussed this with the property owner where the station is being contemplated, we feel that a significant opportunity is being missed to enhance public transit to the site,” the letter read.

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