Monday, September 7, 2015

The Case Against CalgaryNEXT

Credit: Sergei Belski - USA Today Sports
On August 18th, the Calgary Flames revealed their vision for a new sports complex, called CalgaryNEXT. There were many reasons for this, including: McMahon Stadium is old and in desperate need for an upgrade; the Saddledome is also getting up there in years; the aforementioned Saddledome has a wavy roof which prohibits potential concerts from coming to Calgary because the singers can’t suspend things from above; and lastly, because Calgary’s city council is apparently desperate for a field house. If you want more details on the proposal, you can go read about it here - I’m not here to talk about the specifics of it.

What I am going to discuss, however, is why many stadium proposals, including CalgaryNEXT, are flawed, and how they can be fixed.

Why are they flawed?

Read through the above justifications for CalgaryNEXT again. What do you see? Pretty much, the Flames’ argument essentially consists of: “our facilities are old and useless and we need new ones”.

Why is this wrong? Well, there are a few reasons.

If you want concerts, build a concert hall.

Seriously. Why do taxpayers need to spend $690 million (more on that later) for what essentially boils down to a needed stadium/field house, a not-really-needed hockey arena, and a concert hall? I mean, really? If you want concerts, then just build a concert hall! If it has to be the shape of a stadium, well, so be it! Build it wherever! I mean, seriously.

However, if you really need the hall to be part of another complex to save costs…

Keep the Saddledome, and have concerts in an enclosed football stadium.

The Saddledome is a fine hockey arena. Really, it is. It has two main drawbacks (the cramped concourse and lack of luxury boxes), and really, we’ve lived with these awful deficiencies for 32 years. Unless the Flames’ ownership group is considering a major expansion of the Saddledome, the concourse won’t get any more cramped, and the boxes will continue to not overflow. 

I get that Calgarians want to go to concerts. Hey, if a band or artist that I like considers coming to Canada, then I would want them to come to Calgary.

So, just build a flat roof on top of the new football stadium/field house. Would that be a problem? I mean, the owners already want an enclosed stadium, so would this hurt? I mean, you’d have a bigger seating capacity for concerts. That’s a plus. Also, you would have city council's precious field house, and McMahon would get its long-awaited upgrade. To add to all of this, taxpayers would be able to sleep a little more easily at night.

Hey, about that…

Taxpayers are paying way too much in the CalgaryNEXT scenario.

Honestly. Why is a privately-managed sports franchise asking the public to give them money so that they can make more money? I mean, if the Flames’ ownership group wants the public to give them money, they should give the public free seats. That’s the way that a trade works, right? They’re sports executives. They should know that when someone gives you something, you should give back another something of equal value, right? If the public is giving you $690 million to build an arena, well, the Flames should give away 690 million dollars’ worth of tickets. It’s only fair, right?

Also, why is the ownership group only funding a quarter of their own project? That doesn’t seem right. It’s their arena, correct? 

So, why are we paying for it?

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