Saturday, September 26, 2015

CalgaryNEXT? NEXT!!

I was quite surprised to find out that The Calgary Flames were proposing to situate a new multi-use sports facility at the west end of downtown as part of a multi-use sports, entertainment and residential complex. At first glance, the proposal sounds somewhat feasible, but on closer inspection, the CalgaryNEXT idea is flawed for many reasons.

First, being situated right next to the Bow River on a known flood plain isn't the brightest of ideas.

Second, the proposed land is quite contaminated with creosote and who knows what else. I don't believe Calgarians truly understand the level of contamination that exists on the site. Based on my limited conversations with people, I have heard that there is significant toxic pollutants even leaching into the river at this point. The company responsible for the mess isn't around anymore. So who is going to pay to clean this up. In my estimation - we are.

Third, the only public transit access to this area is via one LRT station. There doesn't appear to be any plan for significant parking at the new site, and even if there was, the road network in and out would not handle the number of vehicles trying to get in or out of that site. I don't see every visitor taking LRT. So, the site would not be very welcoming to the masses.

Fourth, the Flames already have a long term lease on the Stampede grounds that they would have to break. Who pays for that?

Fifth, the current venue, the Saddledome, would be re-purposed. For what we're not exactly sure.

Sixth, I have yet to hear that the Calgary Stampeders Football Club was looking for a new venue to replace McMahon Stadium. Not only that, the University doesn't even know what it would do with the newly reclaimed land.

I have a much better idea.

Build a new arena at the Stampede site, not far from the current arena. This is only a basic plan, but I would consider tearing down the Big Four building at the west end of the Stampede grounds. Build the new arena there, along the entire western edge of the grounds by McLeod Trail. This puts the arena closer to both LRT stations. Keep using the Saddledome until the new arena is ready, then tear it down to reclaim the space. If the Big Four is not a good site, perhaps the entire 4 block space bound by 12 Ave SE, 6 St SE, 14 Ave SE and Olympic Way SE could be used. It's empty.

There are a few reasons why I think this plan is more practical.

First, there is no need to break the lease with Stampede.

Second, I think the whole planned Stampede grounds expansion northward toward the East Village was dependant on there still being a large entertainment / sports complex on the grounds. Keeping the arena here would also support the plans for many new bars and restaurants along 4 St SE.

Third, there would still be room for parking.

Fourth, the Convention Centre would still be able to make use of the floor space at the arena, when necessary.

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