Flames to remain in Saddledome, end plan with city for new arena

The Calgary Flames will continue to play in Scotiabank Saddledome indefinitely after an agreement with the city of Calgary to build a new $634 million arena was terminated.

“We have always believed that Calgary needs a new Event Centre,” John Bean, president and CEO of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, the company that owns the Flames, said in a statement Tuesday. “However, under the current circumstances we do not see a path forward that would create a viable partnership with the city, which is essential for a new Event Centre to become a reality.”

The Flames announced June 26, 2020, they planned to move into the new arena for the 2024-25 season.

Before the termination, it had been expected that ground would be broken on the project in the next two months and the arena would open in time for 2024-25.

The statement Tuesday said that the project framework agreement, which governed the funding, design and construction of the Event Centre, required the city and CSEC to waive construction conditions on or before Dec. 31 in order to proceed. Neither side did, so all agreements concerning the project are terminated.

The disagreement came to light Dec. 22, when the Flames ownership group said it would not be able to move forward because of increasing additional costs that were being borne only by CSEC.

The city and CSEC first agreed on the 50/50 cost sharing of the project in December 2019, spelling out a cost of $287.5 million for each partner and a total cost of $575 million for the new arena. When that increased to $608.5 million in July 2021, the city said it was unable to pay for its increased share, so Flames ownership kept the agreement alive by taking on the increased costs, $321 million to the city’s $287.5 million.

Design development and further cost increases made the total price $634 million in October. That increased CSEC’s share again, to $346.5 million, and then CSEC said the city introduced $15 million more for infrastructure costs and $4 million more for climate mitigation that had not been on the table.

When combined with CSEC being responsible for all further cost overruns because of supply chain issues and commodity price escalation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Flames ownership decided it could not proceed under those terms.

In a statement Dec. 22, CSEC said: “The failure of the City and CSEC to find a viable path forward was not based upon simply ‘the last dollar’ on the table; but rather was based upon the accumulated increase in CSEC’s share of the costs, including the infrastructure and climate costs, the overall risk factors related to the Project and the inability of CSEC and the City to find a path forward that would work for both parties.

“While not ideal for Calgarians nor competitively for the Flames, the people of Calgary should understand that nevertheless CSEC’s intentions are to remain in the Scotiabank Saddledome.”

The Saddledome opened in 1983 to replace Stampede Corral as home of the Flames and to host the hockey and figure skating competitions for the 1988 Calgary Olympics. This is the Flames’ 38th season in the arena, the second-oldest in the NHL. Madison Square Garden, home of the New York Rangers, opened in 1968, but a $1 billion renovation was completed in 2013.

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