4 Ways to Fix the Flames' Half-Baked Arena Proposal

Current proposal does not live up to the original vision

This Thursday at 1pm, the Flames owners' half-baked proposal for the new Event Centre will go before the Calgary Planning Commission. This is the last "check and balance" before shovels go in the ground.

But the proposal as it stands requires significant improvements if it is to live up to the original vision and the massive $300-million taxpayer investment in the project.


Here are 4 ways the Calgary Planning Commission can fix the Flames owners' half-baked arena proposal:

1) Deliver a “world-class” arena that actually looks world-class

The new arena was pitched to Calgarians as “world-class” destination and with over $300-million in taxpayer funds contributed Calgarians deserve a world-class building. But unlike the New Central Library, the National Music Centre, BMO Convention Centre Expansion, Glenbow Renovation Plan, or even the latest Calgary YMCAs the Flames owners' proposed designs are anything but “world-class”. They have been publicly called out by community leaders for “lacking imagination” and for fast becoming a “civic disgrace”. Even the national newspaper of record the Globe & Mail panned the proposed design. 


The northwest corner of the arena was supposed to be the “critical corner” for the Culture & Entertainment District according to the CMLC Masterplan. Instead, it more closely resembles a Bed Bath & Beyond big box retail outlet.


2) Do more to honour First Nations and the land of Moh’kinsstis 

The new arena proposal limits acknowledgment of First Nations and the Land of Moh’kinsstis to a single TBD sculpture on the east face and is a missed opportunity for more meaningful acknowledgement.


The new arena site is located on the sacred gathering place of Moh’kinsstis and the traditional land of the Treaty 7 first nations of the Blackfoot confederacy, including the Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, as well as the Îyâxe Nakoda and Tsuut’ina nations and is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.

With over $300-million in public investment committed to the project, more must be done to honour the traditional land of Moh’kinsstis than a single sculpture on the east face of the building. Instead, the scope of the entire east plaza should be considered for this purpose and designed through meaningful engagement with First Nations communities.


3) Take greater action on environmentally sustainability, including:

a) operating carbon neutral starting from opening day;

b) adding a green roof;

c) adding PV solar panels to the roof and/or facade;

d) exceeding the National Energy Code;

e) meeting or exceeding LEED Gold certification;

f) reducing water usage through harvesting rain water off the roof. 


Calgary’s City Council just declared a climate emergency on Monday to begin to address the very real threats of climate change to our city, and yet the proposed arena plans only meet the bare minimum Alberta building codes. 


Flooding in BC this week has wiped out all highway and rail access from Alberta to the Pacific coast.


Meanwhile, Seattle has just completed construction on a new (fully privately-funded) arena that takes bold steps on the environmental front including carbon zero operations with solar panels, harvesting rainwater from the roof to flood the rink, and planning for zero waste and the banning single-use plastics.  


Instead of using the $300-million in taxpayer subsidies to make the arena more environmentally sustainable, the Flames owners are proposing the public funds be used to build the parkade shown above.


4) Deliver a more compelling attraction such as a food market that will actually bring visitors 365-days a year

The Calgary Flames’ sports bar “Flames Central” and adjoining “Wildfire Grill” located in the former Palace Theatre folded in just nine years despite their prime location on Stephen Avenue. (Source: Calgary Herald


Calgarians deserve to be presented with a credible business case before public money is spent on reviving the Flames owners' failed sports bar and resto-pub businesses. Unfortunately, the proposed plans call for just that: an 800-seat sports bar and a 400-seat “fine-dining” resto-bar where they were supposed to be adding vibrancy on Stampede Trail. 


The Flames proposed sports bar and resto-bar on Stampede Trail will have their exterior doors and windows locked during events and are unlikely to attract much of a crowd to fill their 800-seats and 400-seats, respectively, on any of the ~165 days a year when no events are scheduled at the arena.


The Flames owners must present a far more compelling attraction such as a food market filled with many local food vendors that can create vibrancy even outside of major events. A $300-million public subsidy to the Flames owners demands that the arena live up to the original vision of the vibrant culture & entertainment district.


Calgarians deserve accountability on this $300-million public investment. This means getting a "world-class" arena that actually looks world-class, properly honours First Nations, is environmentally sustainable and delivers on the original vision to serve as an anchor for the new Culture & Entertainment District 365-days a year - not just during major events.