New Calgary arena clears city barrier after hours of debate

The Calgary Planning Commission approved the development permit Thursday night for the new event center that was to replace the iconic Saddledome in Victoria Park.

The permit is one of the last obstacles developers need to clear before construction begins, scheduled for January 2022. The permit was approved 8-0 after an hour-long debate that ended close to 6 p.m.

Section 7 Gr. Terry Wong, a member of the Planning Commission, says he still has issues with some of the design elements. But he says the building meets the goals of the Rivers District Master Plan and that it will be a catalyst for development.

“This is not an arena. This is an event center, a gathering place for the local community. This is a place where we have to build communities around it … It has to be a building that is 365 days of activation, inside or outside that building people want to be there, “Wong said.

The plan includes making the building CO2-neutral by 2035, including solar panels on 70 percent of the roof and connecting the building with the District Energy Center on Ninth Avenue.

It happens when Calgary City Council voted 13-2 to declare a climate crisis Monday night.

The arena will be located at the intersection of Olympic Way and 12 Avenue SE and was designed by the local firm Dialog Architecture and the global firm HOK.

Community concerns

Some local groups have in recent months expressed dissatisfaction with the design of the event center. The most recent reproductions of the proposed building were released in late October.

The city received letters from the Beltline Neighborhood Association (BNA), Inglewood Community Association and Victoria Park Business Improvement Area (BIA) expressing concern about pedestrian accessibility, the building’s environmental impact and how it will be integrated into the neighborhood.

To the left, a perspective drawing of the new Calgary event center, to the right, Calgary’s iconic Saddledome. The Calgary Planning Commission approved the development permit for the new event center on Thursday. (Left: Dialog Architecture, right: Robson Fletcher / CBC)

“There is a need to mitigate our collective environmental footprint and demonstrate genuine leadership when it comes to the development of major municipal infrastructure,” Tyson Bolduc, director of planning and urban development for the United States, wrote in a letter to the city in August.

The BNA said the planned parking basement in the building is sending the wrong message about Calgary’s environmental priorities when there are already transit stations and outdoor parking nearby.

Although the city said the future Green Line Light Rail Transit (LRT) will have a station near the center, Victoria Park BIA said in a September letter that not enough consideration was given to the center’s integration with the Green Line.

“After discussing this with the owner of the property where the station is being considered, we feel that a significant opportunity is missed to improve public transportation to the site,” the letter said.

According to the building permit, the city also received 34 letters of support and four letters opposing the construction of the arena from the public.

High cost

The event center project had been stopped earlier due to escalating costs earlier this year. But then the city and the Calgary Flames each agreed to pay $ 12.5 million more than originally planned to build the building.

In return for the city adding the extra funds, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC), the company that owns Flames, agreed to pick up any additional cost overruns.

The building, which is expected to open in 2024, will be owned by the city of Calgary and will be operated by the CSEC.

The center is expected to cost $ 608.5 million.

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