A planning committee delves into details of Calgary’s new arena

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The Calgary floor plan drilled into the design plans for the new arena Thursday night when the project arrived at one of the final hurdles before construction.

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The city planning body has unanimously approved the development permit for the project, but there is also a list of more than 70 conditions that must be met before the $ 600 million replacement work for the Saddledome can officially continue. Kung. Raj Dhaliwal, one of the council members of a planning committee, was absent for the vote.

The commission spent several hours Thursday evening questioning and discussing until almost the 22nd

Construction of the project will begin in early 2022.

The total cost of the arena is estimated at $ 608.5 million, with the city’s contribution limited to $ 287.5 million. The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp., which owns the Flames, will cover the remaining portion plus any possible cost overruns. City wholly owned subsidiary Calgary Municipal Land Corp. was initially planned to be the project manager, but they were removed earlier this year so CSEC could hire a company of their choice.

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Illustrative depictions of the new building have been released in recent months, with architecture firms Dialog and HOK pairing up to design it. There will be a parking lot on the southeast corner, and a large plaza on the southwest corner.

The arena – or event center, as the city calls it – is intended to be one of the anchors of a future “culture and entertainment district” in eastern Victoria Park. While the Saddledome is threatening over concrete parking lots, city council hopes the new event center will be better integrated into its surroundings, with retail, restaurants and an outdoor meeting room helping to draw people to the area.

A city report recommending the project for approval describes a “high-quality pedestrian realm” around the building, including expanded sidewalks, landscaping and a large plaza at the southwest corner.

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The new arena will seat about 18,320 for hockey games, 17,500 for final concerts and more than 20,000 for central events.

Kung. Raj Dhaliwal questioned how the building will reflect Calgary’s culture as it replaces the iconic but worn-out Saddledome.

Urban capital designer David Down said the new building reflects a different philosophy than the 1980s Saddledome.

“This was seen as an integral part, a catalytic part of that neighboring development,” he said.

“While the shape itself isn’t as literal as a saddle for Cowtown, it’s really more about a progressive, up-to-date, highly-prepared, integrated building that reflects a new attitude toward building new urban neighborhoods.”

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Dialogue senior architect Doug Cinnamon told the commission there are elements in the building intended to reflect the surrounding environment – a metal “ribbon” wraps around the top of the event center with a design intended to subtly suggest the sky and the Bow and Elbow rivers. Projection cameras would also be aimed at the ribbon so programmable moving images could be placed on the facade.

“We’ve worked hard to promote transparency,” Cinnamon said, adding large windows will make the skyline visible to people standing inside the building, while people passing by will be able to see what’s happening from the outside.

“So if you walk down 5th Street during an event and we’ve done our job, you’ll be able to see through the glass and see people enjoying an event inside the building,” he said.

City officials also said the building will aim to be carbon-neutral by 2035, reaching the target council specified in the climate emergency vote earlier than the net-zero deadline by 2050.

Citizen Commissioner Chris Pollen said that while the vision of the building is an event center rather than just a hockey arena, he questioned whether that had been achieved.

The architects said the building operator, CSEC, wants to see hundreds of events held in and around the building throughout the year, and that will go well beyond hockey games.

masmith@postmedia.com

Twitter: @meksmith

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