Calgary Flames: New Arena Wishlist

Calgary Flames New Arena Wishlist

With the closings of Nassau County Coliseum, Rexall Place, and Joe Louis Arena in the last three seasons, the Scotiabank Saddledome is now the second oldest rink in the National Hockey League. Madison Square Garden is the oldest, but that arena received a billion dollar facelift in the middle part of the current decade, so its basically a brand new facility. Therefore, that would leave the Scotiabank Saddledome as the oldest arena in the NHL. It is no secret that the Calgary Flames are trying to replace the aging building.

Either on the west side of the Calgary or across the parking lot from the Saddledome, the Flames will be playing in a new arena sooner rather than later. The fans deserve a new arena, as do the players and the city. Here is a wish list to what this modern facility should include.

Majority of seating in the lower bowl

Apr 17, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; General view of the fans during the third period between the Calgary Flames and the Anaheim Ducks in game three of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Scotiabank Saddledome, an arena built in 1983, currently lacks an adequate enough of lower bowl seating. Back in June 2014, current Flames president Brian Burke called out the arena, saying it was “embarrassing” and the Flames need a new building. That was in 2014, almost three years ago to the date. Calgary still plays in an arena that was state of the art in 1987, not 2017.

The Saddledome has roughly 6,000 seats in the lower bowl. For an arena with a capacity for roughly 19,000 patrons, 31.5% of the premium seating in the arena is pretty low. Take a look at all the new facilities that have been built in the last fifteen years. They all have majority of their seating in the lower bowl, bringing the fans closer to the playing surface and helping make the arena profitable for their ownership group in the process.

There should be at a minimum 50% of the new arenas seating in the lower bowl for this new building, a 20% increase from the Saddledome.

Increase in club level seating and luxury suites

With one club, the Chrysler Club, and 72 luxury suites in the arena, the Scotiabank Saddledome is in the bottom tier of the arenas in the NHL when in terms of offering these privileges. With only 31 of these suites being in the lower part of the arena, the Saddledome is showing its age by lacking in terms of modern luxuries for an NHL facility. The newer arenas have roughly 2-3 club level areas, with many bars and sit-down restaurants around their concourse. Also, these arenas boasts 30-40% more suites than the 72 that are in the Saddledome. Premium seating brings businesses and other opportunities to bring money and revenue into the arena. This is a huge selling point into making the future home of the Calgary Flames a viable option for the city as well.

New Building…Saddledome Feel

Sounds like an oxymoron right? How can you create a building with such great character like the Saddledome again? Simple, find the ways that make the acoustics of the building be ideal in a new, modern arena setting. Does this mean re-create the saddle-shaped roof? In a way it could be. Adding new unique seating or a one-of-a-kind design to an area of the rink? Certainly. But it is key to remember that you do not want to lose the same vibe and feel of moving from one rink to the other.

A prime example of keeping this feel for a team that moved rinks is in the home of the Chicago Blackhawks, where the United Center is very similar in terms of noise and feel to the old Chicago Stadium. It is an important concept to keep in mind when you are designing a new arena because the Saddledome is one of the louder arenas in the NHL.


Apr 17, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; General view of the fans prior to the game between the Calgary Flames and the Anaheim Ducks in game three of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Make the arena stand out

Adding character to the arena will help make the new facility for the Calgary Flames to stand out. Whether it is keeping an open ended portion at one end of the arena or if it is making the arena a more family friendly facility, make the arena stand out. Wider concourses, easier wi-fi connectivity, more bathrooms and many more options can help make the arena stand out from the pack. Add a club level that is only so many rows from the ice surface or make bars around the concourse accessible to watching the games from the bar as well. These are a handful of characteristics that could be possible in the new Flames arena.

We all know it, the Saddledome might be the 31st nicest arena in the NHL in terms of viability in 2017. In the 1980s, the Saddledome was the nicest arena in the NHL. But like stated previously, this is not 1987 anymore. It is 2017 and the Saddledome is an obsolete arena by NHL standards. Gary Bettman has expressed his opinion on getting a new rink in Calgary. The ownership group has been lobbying back and forth between the city of Calgary for a new rink.

Bring the big events back to Calgary

Do some people think there is no issue with the Saddledome? Certainly. But from a business perspective, the building does not provide a viable option for things other than hockey. Artists sometimes skip Calgary for concerts on their tours because of the poor acoustics for music events. The city might not get the Olympic Games in 2026 unless they are reluctant to replace key buildings in an aging infrastructure. NHL Drafts and NHL All Star Games are going to continue to not be on the radar for the league due to the facility.

These are huge money grabs that are walking out of the hands of the city. Free agents and other players will skip on Calgary as a location to go to because of their arena they play in. As bad as it sounds, it sometimes is a selling point for players.

Get it accomplished Calgary, you deserve it.

You have to pony up a few dollars in order to keep your city and their team happy. It would be a shame if this great hockey club relocated due to the lack of a viable arena. The Seattle or Kansas City Flames does not flow well like the Calgary Flames does. Once the new arena gets built, these are some of the things that it will need to include in order to make the fan experience and the overall atmosphere the best in North America.