More than an arena: Here is everything we are getting around the new Calgary Flames rink

Apr 26 2023, 6:10 pm

A new arena for the Calgary Flames got most of the headlines yesterday, but the new River’s District plan has a lot more than that.

The whole area around the arena is going to change with public amenities and infrastructure, including improvements to public spaces and a new community rink to enjoy. There will also be some new businesses opening up around the new Event Centre.

Councillor Sonya Sharp is the chair of the Event Centre Committee and says it is important to the city that this is about more than just a new rink.

“Make no mistake, this project is about more than just a single building. It’s fulfilling our vision of a home for culture, sports, and entertainment. It’s a vital investment in our city’s future prosperity, vibrancy and growth,” Sharp explained. “A little over a hundred years and 1.3 million people later, we have a new Big Four — four partners committed to building a community hub that will serve us for generations to come.”

It will pair nicely with the soon-to-be complete new BMO Centre along with current stand-out buildings like Studio Bell and the Central Library.

The plan for the River’s District around the new arena for the Calgary Flames includes the following:

New Underpass

A new four-lane underpass under the CP train tracks with wide sidewalks at 6th Street SE provides pedestrian, wheeling, and vehicle connections around the new Entertainment and Culture District. 

Community Rink

A shared facility for public booking will be a part of the plans. It will also serve as a training facility for the Flames, Hitmen, Wranglers, and Roughnecks, with seating for 1,000.

Indoor and Outdoor Gathering Spaces

They say this will feature even more opportunities for community events onsite and in The District.

Street Improvements

The City of Calgary says improvements are coming to 5th Street SE along with 15th, 17th, and 25th Avenues SE.

New Commercial Development

The area around the Event Centre will feature a number of new development projects and commercial opportunities that will help with the plans to enhance Calgary’s Downtown core and The District.

Now, this all comes with a big price tag.

Calgary Flames Arena

City of Calgary

Critics of this new area have pointed to how much public money is going into this $1.2 billion project.

$537.3 million of this is coming from the City. The Province is providing an additional $330 million. The last $356 million is contributed by the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation.

Councillor Sharp says the city is paying a lot, but they are getting a lot.

“This is a district and one that will serve every member of our community. The completed district will attract new people, more events and greater investment. It will play a key role in the redevelopment of East Victoria Park and Calgary’s downtown revitalization,” Sharp explained.

“And, of course, it will be home to the Calgary Flames and other professional sports teams along with a broad variety of global and local artists and entertainment and events. It will be home to local businesses and a gathering place for community.”

CSEC President and CEO John Bean says they hope this helps bring some major shows to Calgary and Alberta.

“We’ve heard this from our friends in the north, but they were getting messaging that some of the big acts won’t actually come over the Rockies because they can only get to Edmonton. We were trying to do a number of concerts that weren’t coming here, and we were missing from concerts that weren’t coming to Alberta.”

If everything goes how everyone says it will, this could be a significant moment for the city. Time will certainly tell.

Peter KleinPeter Klein

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