Before I get into this, a few disclaimers:
- I am a very long time season ticket holder for the Calgary Flames and I am thrilled a new arena is now agreed upon for the team which I recently doubled my financial commitment to now that my son is old enough to enjoy a full season ticket himself.
- I work for the Calgary Roughnecks as a colour commentator and I sincerely hope that the pressbox view will be considered in the new design as it is occasionally obstructed and was not built for full grown men to stand comfortably and broadcast from.
- A world class city is getting a world class arena that will be split between the city and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation which seems like a good deal for the taxpayers.
Now, here comes the but. The Nicki Minaj sized butt.
But, there was nothing for the Calgary Stampeders, tenants of McMahon Stadium and one time potential beneficiaries of the project called CalgaryNext.
CalgaryNext was to be a combined hockey rink and football stadium, shared offices for employees of CSEC, shared concessions and an area surrounding to rival the Glebe in Ottawa and the festival-type atmosphere surrounding Frank Claire Stadium. The project was supposed to cost more than twice what the current arena will as the new approval came with a $550 million dollar price tag.
Now, the “ask for a pony, so you can get a dog” strategy of asking for way more than you actually want so you can seem to be caving has paid off. The CSEC has the stadium of their main desire which will house three of their four teams while the fourth is left in the literal cold, languishing in the oldest stadium in the CFL.
The Grey Cup was just hosted in Calgary and it will likely represent the last time the game’s largest game comes to Calgary unless a new building is built or massive renovations are completed.
Holding up the renovation game is the team’s relationship with the McMahon Stadium Society. The story goes that the last time the Stampeders sunk substantial money into renovating the stadium, their rent was increased as a result. You know, because the stadium was suddenly a much nicer place and therefore should cost more money to rent.
The attitude I have heard expressed is that the Stamps and CSEC are incredibly reluctant to go down this road again in the future as a result.
So, a stadium that has almost unrivaled sight lines from all seats is sadly paired with huge lineups at concessions and washrooms which, from experience, are the only rooms where one can warm up in during a late November minus 40 degree game.
So, to the fans of the Stampeders, the news leaves one feeling empty.
We, as Stamps fans, understand there is only 11 dates a year that the Stampeders take the field and collect ticket money. One pre-season, nine regular season, and typically one playoff game see the stands swell with red and white. The dangerous economics of building a CFL stadium have been witnessed in Winnipeg and Hamilton.
CalgaryNext was supposed to solve that problem by housing amateur athletics, utilizing the new football area for so much more than Stampeder football.
Now, those plans are junked with no mention of what to do with the CFL’s most successful franchise of the last three decades. One thinks that the league office has to be thrilled that the Stampeders have been the winningest team and so fans continue to head to McMahon to see them. A prolonged bit of losing here might even chase those diehards away.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has been outspoken in his desire to see a new building in Calgary. The players and fans have also. Some of those fans already have spoken with their wallet.
It’s just too bad that in this negotiation, the Stampeders have been sacrificed as a pawn in the chess game between the city of Calgary and it’s sporting overlords.
Checkmate, I guess.