The good news is the really boring procedural parts of negotiating the new arena deal are done. The bad news is we still have a long, long time before the arena opens.
We pestered several bigwigs at City Hall on Tuesday and got a few answers to the most pressing arena question we have left: when is the arena going to be ready?
Event Centre Assessment Committee chair Jeff Davison noted that the legal teams need to negotiate “definitive agreements” by Nov. 30 and then public engagement on things like arena design, accessibility and programming will begin. The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation will present a draft engagement plan to council in early September which will illustrate exactly how that will work.
Once engagement is done – likely some in early 2020 – we’ll be able to see renderings and plans for the new arena. The goal is to get shovels in the ground in 2021, but Davison noted that there is “18 to 24 months” of work to be done before that can happen. Based on his estimated timeline, shovels will be in the ground sometime in the spring or summer of 2021. The exact timelines aren’t nailed down and could have an impact on a Flames playoff run or the 2021 Stampede – hopefully the exact parking plan for the construction period has been figured out by then.
Flames executive Ken King was asked how relieved he felt now that attention can be turned to actually building the arena. He noted that there’s a lot of work still to be done.
“Relief wouldn’t be the word I would choose, other than the next four or five hours because the real work starts now, of course,” said King. “But it’s going to be the productive work. This has been productive for its purpose. Barry [Munro, the head negotiator] uses a term ‘gates.’ We’ve passed the first gate. We have many more gates to get by.”
King estimated that the construction of the facility would take between 36 and 40 months. With the goal presumably being opening for the 2024-25 NHL season – with the curtain being raised during the pre-season in September 2024, if not a bit earlier – that would mean a ground-breaking would need to happen between May and September 2021. For logistical and timing reasons, expect all parties involved to push for work to begin as early in 2021 as possible, likely March or April.
One person who was rather pleased with the vote – despite the chaos it’s about to bring to his domain – was Calgary Stampede CEO Warren Connell. Stampede Park may become a bit of a construction zone due to the BMO Centre expansion (now until 2024), the arena project (2021-24), the Saddledome demolition (2024-25) and ongoing Green Line LRT work north of the grounds.
It’s all short term pain for long term gain.
“That’s one of the amazing things, if you look around North America you’ll actually see cities that have taken 20 years to develop these new relocated spots,” said Connell. “And that 20 years is a massive disruption. This will all be done in five. So will there be some short-term pain? Absolutely. But when it’s all done, it will be beautiful, it will be authentic and it will help drive this city forward.”
In short, our best guesses:
- Arena plans and renderings available in January or February 2020
- Ground-breaking for the building in March or April 2021
- The opening of the building sometime between April and September 2024