Stampeders left out as ’Plan B‘ arena proposal gets support

The Calgary Flames have what they want: movement on an arena deal. It’s just not the deal they originally proposed and now it puts part of the sports corporation’s business in a bind.

Calgary City Council voted Monday in support of ‘Plan B,’ an arena site in Victoria Park that is now being used as a parking lot for Saddledome and Stampede customers west of 5th Street between 12th and 14th Avenues Southeast.

What Plan B doesn’t include is a ‘Fieldhouse,’ the code word for a football stadium that the Stampeders desperately need.

Having the distinction of operating out of the oldest buildings in both the NHL and CFL, the Calgary Flames Entertainment (CSEC) is trying to catch up and get an entertainment facility built for three of its four teams (Flames, Hitmen and Roughnecks).

It’s been nearly two years since they proposed CalgaryNext, an ambitious riverfront project that would include homes for all their sports teams. Council, especially mayor Naheed Nenshi, never seemed too keen on the CalgaryNext plan, which started with an $890-million proposal for a massive land redevelopment.

The city replied that it could cost twice as much to revitalize that land, in the West Village, and balked at the proposal.

The long back and forth between the city and CSEC got a bit heated last month when Nenshi said CalgaryNext was dead, which prompted Flames boss Ken King to say it was just ‘sleeping.’ King then made the bold statement that if CSEC didn’t get a deal it liked, they wouldn’t threaten to move the team, they would just move. (Let’s recognize that non-threat as a threat, shall we.)

King clarified his statement, which was made on a Toronto-based national radio show and for some reason took a while to register in Calgary, but it was clear that city council was moving in the direction towards Plan B regardless of how the Flames felt about it.

For many reasons, the Victoria Park site is much more attractive when it comes to just an entertainment facility. There is existing transit in place, it’s right next door to the current arena and it won’t need a major land redevelopment.

It solves a problem even bigger than just a bigger revenue generator for the NHL club.

Calgary has tired of becoming a second-class city when it comes to entertainment as the majority of the major concert announcements in Alberta are for Edmonton, and that was even before Rogers Place opened last fall. The Saddledome can’t host the elaborate stage shows most major artists use, so Calgary often gets skipped on big tours, despite having a big fan base here. It leaves most of them heading north to see these shows, spending their money in the capital instead of at home.

Of course, when the Oilers unveiled their fancy new digs, it was easy to see CSEC get jealous, just as they will be green with envy once the Saskatchewan Roughriders kick off their new Mosaic Stadium this summer.

Getting Plan B off the ground only solves half the problem for CSEC, which is why King refuses to let the CalgaryNext proposal die. It was voted on Monday in council to completely cease any further consideration for CalgaryNext, but that failed by a 12-3 count. That’s a win for King at least, as he wants to carry that plan in his back pocket.

It’s clear Calgarians support a new arena project, but as always they are reluctant to pay for it. CalgaryNext came with too high a price tag for taxpayers to stomach — with around $200 million coming from the city — and the reaction from council was appropriate.

But if CSEC moves ahead on the Victoria Park plan, at some point soon they will be going back, hat in hand, to try and get something in the works to replace McMahon Stadium, which is the one of the most rundown of all CFL facilities because of all the new buildings in Hamilton, Ottawa, Winnipeg and Regina, and with the refurbishment of B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.

Would a new CFL stadium cost less than $200 million in a different site? Where would it go? And would CSEC want to pay for some or all of that cost?

Those questions will be left unanswered for a while as long as Plan B is moving forward. King won’t have any leverage to scare the public if he gets the arena built and still needs a football stadium. There’s no chance a threat to move would work for a CFL team in one of the biggest markets in the country.

As for right now, it looks like there will be a long road ahead for the Stampeders to get a new facility. It seems we are just beginning down another long path.

Ian Busby

Ian Busby

Ian Busby has covered the Stampeders and the CFL since 2003, with eight years as a beat reporter. He is now a producer at Breakfast Television.
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Ian Busby
About Ian Busby (166 Articles)
Ian Busby has covered the Stampeders and the CFL since 2003, with eight years as a beat reporter. He is now a producer at Breakfast Television.

53 Comments on Stampeders left out as ’Plan B‘ arena proposal gets support

  1. Personally – I would have liked to seen a new football stadium in Calgary

    But the cash , calls the shots

  2. Jimmy Breslin // April 25, 2017 at 9:40 am //

    Pay heed to Ottawa they battled for seven years but finally got to build their stadium where they wanted, TD Place at Lansdowne. Besides the fact that it’s a beautiful venue for football the amazing location has created a complete new entertainment area filled with pubs, restaurants and theatres that Ottawans are flocking too. As for the team they basically sell out every home game. Location matters….

  3. mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 10:00 am //

    Ian, to call Calgary a second class city in terms of entertainment is very obtuse. Calgary has and is building world class facilities for arts and music. There is more to this world than sports and AC/DC concerts.

    • Ben Decido // April 25, 2017 at 10:45 am //

      Your comment is just as obtuse. Our city is coming along little by little in terms of arts facilities but sports and major events matter to many of us too.

      • mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 11:34 am //

        I’m not saying it’s not important. In fact I’d love to see new stadiums here believe me.I’ve had stamps season tickets for 25 years. I just think it was unfair to say that.

  4. Second the Ottawa type project being built in Calgary. Will give EVERYONE world class places to play and give the city a REAL BIG shot in the arm. The success in Ottawa speaks for itself.

  5. mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 10:20 am //

    I wonder if Ken Kings days are numbered? City council has said Calgary next is dead for Ken King to say it’s “just sleeping” shows is lack of seriousness to get this done anytime in the next decade. Maybe CSEC should hire someone with a better sense of urgency. Let it die and move on with plan B which is in a location that been tried tested and true.
    Calgary Next was a pipe dream whether oil is $50.00 or $250.00 per barrel this wasn’t going to fly. It’s far too controversial and would be a political hot potato no politician one would want to handle.

  6. Ben Decido // April 25, 2017 at 10:47 am //

    I’ve never understood why Calgary is soooo reluctant to spend money on a good (scratch that) GREAT stadium facility. Even the winter Olympics wasn’t enough of an impetus to get something wonderful built.

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 11:36 am //

      That was 1988 with the renos done at McMahon it did improve it significantly and at that time it was pretty good!

      • Ben Decido // April 26, 2017 at 9:18 am //

        Are you kidding me?! All they did is add a some backed seating, some plastic seating and a new speaker and that’s about it. That doesn’t even count as a reno.

  7. Ken King is from Saskatchewan so stumpland will probably try to spin that it’s the Riders fault Plan B doesn’t include a new home for the Stampeders.

  8. mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 12:18 pm //

    I’m glad Calgary Next is dead I know it was only a concept but based on the pictures the stamps were getting a raw deal. There is not such thing as a good football stadium that also hosts track and field and various other amateur sports.
    I would like to hear from long time Stampeder fans who go to games regularly on their opinions.
    I would like to see a moderate reno done to the existing facility. We don’t need to build a mansion like some, we need to be fiscally responsible and not take a huge risk on future sustainability in terms of affordability etc.
    McMahon is in a great location. I park a block away and have never paid a dime. I leave my car 30-40 minutes prior to kick off go straight in, get my 50/50 ticket, go straight into washroom with no lineup, get a pop and licorice (occasionally a beer) and head to my seats. Probably 10-15 minutes from car to seat. After game we wait a few minutes for the majority of people to get down from our west bleacher go straight into washroom again (maybe wait inline for literally 1 minute)head straight to car and head out in a westerly direction with little traffic.
    New seats and a concourse that could accommodate more diverse food and drink options would be nice as would a little architectural flare (such as an overhang to keep me dry).
    We have separate Coaches/administration facilities that are fairly new and quit nice and a player facility that is decent but I would like to see it improved for the great team we have. Larger training and rehab areas and nicer meeting and film room are mostly what is needed .

    • Puck Hog // April 26, 2017 at 8:11 am //

      Thanks for telling all of us about your washroom schedule. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz……….

  9. Scottsask // April 25, 2017 at 12:22 pm //

    Snicker

  10. Stampland // April 25, 2017 at 1:10 pm //

    Cow town will never get a new football the place is small minded and the mayor doesnt get Canadian culture so the stamps die or keep playing in a dump from the 40s

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 1:26 pm //

      Another impersonator I love it!. You know what they say imitation is the best form of flattery.
      FYI McMahon was build in the 60’s not the 40’s. I’ll admit it’s not much to look at. It has received modest renos over the years and is well maintained if something is broke it gets repaired. We can certainly have far more pride in McMahon then the riders or other teams could in their old stadiums.

      • MarcusCrandell2007 // April 25, 2017 at 6:49 pm //

        Maybe you have more pride in McMahon than other CFL fans, but I’m sure Rider fans have a lot of pride in Mosaic, Ti-cats fans have a lot in Ivor Wynne, etc…
        Unfortunately, i don’t think renos are enough to restore that stadium. While a $50M reno may be attractive financially, a long term investment in a new facility around $250-300M is not a terrible idea. At that price tag, could build something similar to the Riders and new Mosaic. The location of the new facility will likely be a problem, as Calgary is fairly congested, but it makes more sense than renovations to a stadium that is quite rundown.

      • Puck Hog // April 26, 2017 at 8:19 am //

        Incognito, if imitation is the best form of flattery, you have definitely flattered all slugs.

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 1:32 pm //

      A mayor that doesn’t get Canadian culture? Hmmm that’s a eye brow raising comment. Please try to explain what it means. Comes across as quit offensive and I don’t want people having that impression of you whoever this is.

      • Wrong, no one has or had more pride in their stadium than Rider fans did in Taylor Field (Mosaic stadium). It started hosting football as a complete stadium in 1936, had a major west-side expansion in the 70s and additional renovations and expansion through the 2000s. But after 80 YEARS it was time to be replaced with something more modern & with amenities that couldn’t be added to the old Taylor Field site.

        Compare that to the Saddledome, which is 30 years old and is being replaced essentially for what, jealousy of Edmonton and some additional luxury suites? No Calgary pride in the arena that hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics? How about you look in the mirror before running down other fan bases as usual

        • mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 10:13 pm //

          McMahon is far better maintained than was Taylor field.That’s fact. Taylor Field had wooden benches! It’s office area had walls that were wood studs and exposed insulation but no drywall.
          FYI saddle had terrible narrow concourses horrible washrooms and it’s roof structure prevents it from holding many concerts. It needs replaced. It’s not jealousy with Edmonton

    • Sixties. 60’s. McMahon was built in 1960. Cigarettes were 50 cents a pack. Buffets cost a dollar. Gas was 25 cents a gallon. John F Kennedy hadn’t won the Presidential election yet that year. No one has flown in space. No one ever heard of the Beatles. It was a frigging one time ago.

  11. Mr Curling // April 25, 2017 at 1:53 pm //

    Mr Curling knows it’s the product on the field that counts not the stadium. The shine on new Mosaic won’t last long if Riders keep losing, and keep in mind the most thrilling game ever took place in Taylor field in 2013 when it was slated for demolition

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 2:21 pm //

      That is a good point Mr Curling.
      Mosaic does have that incredible moment.
      McMahon is a temple to all things great about the CFL. Beside proving fans with incredible moments (granted we never won a cup there). It’s had amongst the best player of all time come out of the stamps locker room.
      In my 25 years of season tickets the memories are too many to list. They range from Doug Flutie losing his shoe as he plunges into to endzone for game winning touchdown in 1992 western final to watching Henry Gizmo Williams get thrown out after hitting a fan on the sidelines in a blowout Calgary win in 1998 western final to watching rider fans run onto the field until a chain link fence was added to the sides to stop them (another reno done at McMahon)
      McMahon is the Lambeau field, Yankee stadium ,Montreal Forum of the CFL

      • It’s nice that you have great memories there but it’s not even close to Lambeau, Yankee Stadium or the Montreal Forum. In fact, my only memories of McMahon are that it smells like animal excrement and urine. When people call it a barn or a stable they aren’t kidding. Hopefully, Calgary can get something done and soon!

        • mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 4:19 pm //

          When you add up the home wins it absolutely is like those places. Been going my whole life and season ticket holder 25 years the only time it smells like urine is with 10 feet of the urinals and drunk idiots piss on the floor. Doubt a new stadium fixes that.

  12. T Chapman // April 25, 2017 at 2:24 pm //

    McMahon stadium is in the ideal location- has the c-train right across the bridge, hotels/restaurants/pubs nearby, not too great a distance from d/t. What it needs is an overhaul- and this isn’t an impossible thing to do. Widen/upgrade the concourses, additional/upgraded washroom facilities, upgraded concessions, uniform/upgraded seats, improved entry/exit access. It could easily be done within the calendar of the off-season, construction could commence immediately following the final game of the season. (A similar thing was done with the Saddledome in the mid 90s).

    All stakeholders should embrace this idea promptly, and get it done. I’m willing Stamps fans would go for it.

  13. I try to make it to at least one game a year at McMahon, when my boys in green are there of course. I’ve always found it had strengths and weaknesses. Can be windy, but what stadium isn’t. I’ve never had complaints about the seats or views, that’s all good. The big screen needs updating, and a second would be a big help. Lineups for beer and food can be daunting. Parking is horrible unless you know the tricks (ie Keg parking lot), C-train isn’t a terrible option, but lineups to get on after the game are at least 30-45 minutes. I think a $50ish million reno would get it in pretty decent shape.

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 4:54 pm //

      If you’d be nice to me grain I’d tell you a place way closer than the Keg that is totally free and very easy

      • Puck Hog // April 26, 2017 at 8:17 am //

        Don’t fall for that one, Grain!

      • Other than one stupid comment, I’ve been nice to everyone… The only football folks I don’t like are the Canadian’s who are NFL only fans, can’t respect them.

  14. Ladd Law // April 25, 2017 at 5:11 pm //

    This story really does point to how insignificant the Stumps are to Calgarians. Fickle group, band wagoneers at best. Probably nothing will happen for another ten years or until oil turns around.

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 5:14 pm //

      Vince Young’s first words from day 1 of mini camp:
      The warm up was tough

    • mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 5:29 pm //

      About as insignificant as smart well though out financing and use of public money is in Regina.

      Wonder why your provincial sales tax is going up?

      • Ladd Law // April 25, 2017 at 5:39 pm //

        It’s a community team. Community money. By not addressing my comment directly, you in fact must agree that the Stumps are insignificant in their own town. No surprise there.

        • mrnehnehincognito // April 25, 2017 at 5:53 pm //

          Community money! Yeah I think all Government money is community money.
          Put it in perspective: Think about the Saddledome when it opened until right now, it has become an old antiquated facility that has become a joke. In almost the same time from it’s open until right now is how long you will be paying for your stadium.Does that sound smart?

          Also 27,000 plus every game is hardly insignificant. Stop hiding behind your attendance numbers and face reality.

          • I never mentioned attendance. What I said was the Stumps are insignificant to Calgarians and you seem to agree but avoiding the question.

  15. Calgary next was never about the Stamps unfortunately. The stadium that was proposed with the new arena was basically a covered multi use field house facility. While I strongly agree that the Stamps need a new or upgraded facility, I am glad that it won’t come to fruition through the Calgary next concept that was proposed.

    McMahon stadium is completely antiquated and out dated as a facility. The seating is horrible unless you like metal benches without backs, the concourses narrow and dank, the concession lines long and frustrating especially since there is no ability to watch the game while standing in them (either directly or via television screen).

    A major upgrade/ renovation is the most likely avenue for this team at this time versus a new stadium similar to Edmonton or even Ottawa where one of the stands were completely redone and the other renovated. The best hope for a quick response to this issue is the city applying to host the 2026 Winter Olympics where there would be a significant infusion of government money to upgrade and build new facilities.

  16. mrnehnehincognito // April 26, 2017 at 10:28 am //

    A big addition is coming to McMahon. A silver goblet will be perched in late fall

  17. Participant trophy?

  18. I hope Calgary gets a new stadium. Strong and stable teams is in the best interests of the CFL and all of of us who love the league.

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