WebStamp February 26, 2020
Preserving An Iconic Landmark
With the July 30th tentative agreement reached by the City of Calgary, the Calgary Flames and the Calgary Stampede for the new Event Centre, the Iconic Saddledome is slated to be demolished. The originally named Olympic Saddledome is one of Calgary’s landmarks that helped shape this city to what it is today. Calgary has benefited having the Saddledome with the hosting of a successful 1988 Winter Olympics, hockey games, concerts, and many other venues.
Back in June of 2017, the Calgary Saddledome Foundation (CSF) commissioned a private sector consulting consortium to conduct a Calgary Saddledome Potential Future Uses Study. The report considered Partnerships, Emotional Attachment, Competition, Time, Coordination, and Social Impact. The study revealed several options for the future use of the Saddledome; to continue to operate it in its present form without a major tenant, several scenarios for the repurposing of the structure, decommissioning keeping the facility ready and available for significant events, and demolition.
The study projected that operating without a major tenant would incur a net operating loss of over $1.2 million. Decommissioning the Saddledome would cost taxpayers up to $800.000 a year. Demolishing the landmark would cost taxpayers around $13 million. The study also included a scenario for a successful bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics where the Saddledome could compliment a new downtown event centre.
Out of the study we find that only repurposing the Saddledome would be a viable sustainable option. The report suggests 4 possible repurposing scenarios, Recreation, Convention, a Smaller Multi-Use Venue, and Hosting a Winter Olympics. Needless to say, we opted out on the 2026 Olympics due to a lack of information for funding. The convention centre idea doesn’t make sense with the new BMO Centre to expand. That narrows it down to a recreation centre and the smaller multi-use facility as viable options that would allow the Saddledome to remain.
The city plans to develop a regional recreation centre In the City core around 2030. The Saddledome could become that facility at savings to taxpayers for not having to build a new facility at a higher cost. The study proposes the major program elements to consist of three NHL sized Ice surfaces on the current Event Level, with a large Soccer Field component to be located on the Main Concourse Level. Renovations for a recreation centre would cost upwards of $165 million and could produce a net operating income of over $2 million a year.
My favourite is the smaller capacity multi-event venue option that would be suitable for events that are too small for the new proposed Event Centre. Here we would see the lower floors and seating zones remain around the existing hockey Ice slab/Event floor for smaller events hosting 5,000 to 7,000 patrons. The study suggests the upper portion seating be removed and use that area for office, meeting, program, or hospitality related spaces. This would cost $53 million in renovations and would incur a net operating loss of $1 million.
This option should be looked at again and redesigned with the outer area of the event floor/ lower seating developed into a cultural meeting place and small shop mall as proposed in WebStamp’s Preserving Calgary’s Historic Saddle article. Renovations would cost less retaining the current structure allowing for easy removal when the need arises to restore the Saddledome back to a full-size stadium. Additional revenues would be generated from shop rentals and advertising that could generate a profit instead of a loss.
The Saddledome has been an Iconic Landmark for over 30 years and a symbol of what Calgary is all about. The iconic saddle shape of its inverse parabolic roof representing Calgary’s roots with cowboys, ranchers, farmers and agriculture, and the old west. The technical ingenuity and determination of Albertans are reflected in our skyline for the world to see. Let us keep the Saddledome and make it a place for people to enjoy visiting. Voice your opinion to city council, or the Stampede Association who will own it later, that we want to keep our heritage landmarks.
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WebStamp February 26, 2020