Alberta To Pass On Public Funding For Saddledome Replacement


CALGARY (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — The day after the president of the Calgary Flames announced plans to build a new arena, Calgary officials said that the team shouldn't expect an infusion of taxpayer fudning for the endeavor.

The Pengrowth Saddledome is the current home of three professional sports teams; the NHL Calgary Flames, the WHL(Western Hockey League) Calgary Hitmen and the Calgary Roughnecks of the National Lacrosse League. The Saddledome also plays host to numerous major touring artists throughout the year and has scheduled dates with Keith Urban, Jay-Z, Rascall Flatts and The Trans-Siberian Orchestra in the near future. Originally opened in 1983 after a $100 million dollar build, the Saddledome is now the sixth oldest building in use by an NHL franchise.

According to the Calgary Herald, reps from the team met with city officials earlier this year to make "high-level" presentations about a new building and while the provincial government expressed a willingness to offer financial support with transportation infrastructure for a new venue, they stated that they had no intention of helping to underwrite a new arena.

"It's very clear — we're not putting money into arenas." Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach told the Herald.

Last year, a task force convened by Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel recommended that a new arena be constructed with the usual mix of private and public funds but the notion appears to enjoy little support among Calgary residents.

"I can't see any taxpayer dollars going to it. It wouldn't bother me but residents of this city would have too many objections to it," Ward 5 Ald. Ray Jones told the Herald.

This type of public-private partnership is much more common in the United States where where most sports venue are constructed with significant levels of public funding. The argument that a stadium or arena helps to drive revenue for area business and lures entertainment dollars to the city is frequently made by sports franchises looking to upgrade their digs but little substantive historical evidence exists to support these claims.

Backers for the a replacement for the Saddledome have also claimed that a new arena would help to attract more touring artists as some major performers such as Madonna and Britney Spears have reportedly skipped scheduling gigs at the Saddledome due to the weight limitations imposed by the venue's unusual saddle-shaped roof.

"We pass up some of the biggest and, in the entertainment world, perhaps most important concerts due to physical limitations and restrictions of the building." Calgary Flames president Ken King told the Herald.

Not everyone shares King's opinion however and a number of promoters in the market said that the weight limitation rarely prevent artists from performing at the Saddledome.

"It's [a new arena] not going to become some panacea of new shows that aren't otherwise making it to Calgary," Live Nation's Paul Haagenson said. "It's only a handful of acts that don't make it (to the Dome)per year.. Calgary already gets a large number of shows."

Harvey Cohen of Alberta-based promoter Union agrees.

"Every time the city misses a show, it automatically gets blamed on the (Saddledome) roof," Cohen told the Herald. "That isn't necessarily the case. Sometimes the availability just isn't there. In the end of the day, the building has three professional sports teams playing there along with a very busy calendar of events." – CelebrityAccess Staff Writers