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Urban Compass Calgary

Metro keeps a finger on the pulse of our city.

West Village a poor choice for Calgary sports megaplex

Stampede Park offers more room, better amenities

A proposal for the CalgaryNEXT sports complex as envisioned by Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation - the company that owns the Flames and the Stampeders.

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A proposal for the CalgaryNEXT sports complex as envisioned by Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation - the company that owns the Flames and the Stampeders.

The west side of downtown is a poor spot for a gargantuan NHL-CFL megaplex.

That point is made in a damning city report released last week, but this insight is nothing new to urban planning experts who have been saying as much all along.

“It didn’t make sense,” says Francisco Alaniz Uribe, an assistant professor in the University of Calgary’s faculty of environmental design, of CalgaryNEXT’s proposed West Village location.

“I don’t think there’s enough space for that kind of development. You wouldn’t be able to have a good river interface.”

The CalgaryNEXT numbers didn’t make sense either. The city pegs the project cost at around $1.8 billion, not the $890-million suggested by Ken King and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC).

But the location of these facilities is just as important as the financing — if not more so.

West Village is slated to become a mixed-use riverside neighbourhood. CSEC made noises about CalgaryNEXT being a place you could “live, work and play” alongside a shiny new arena, but never made that case convincingly.

Alaniz says if a university student proposed something similar for that site, they’d be put through rigorous questioning about why something with such a massive footprint should go there.

With a brand new LRT station that wasn’t designed for the crush of game-day traffic.

With serious creosote contamination underfoot.

With the challenge of Bow Trail.

“They would have to answer,” says Alaniz. “But in this case, that question hasn’t really been answered.”

Put another way, CSEC would fail the class.

The City of Calgary basically gave CSEC a big red F when it said CalgaryNEXT “is not feasible in its present form or location.”

Stampede Park, the Flames’ current home and the site city admin is suggesting, makes much more sense from a planning perspective.

Alaniz points out that Stampede Park already has two LRT stations made for event traffic, along with parking. And it’s got room.

“Just look at an aerial photograph,” says Alaniz. “Visualize the structures that are there in terms of buildings. There’s so much empty space.”

Another option is to look at sites beyond downtown, but that means sucking the economic benefits that come from event traffic out of the core.

A Stampede Park location keeps those benefits downtown without completely choking off major traffic routes. “It needs a much better connection to 17th Avenue, but it’s easily walkable and it’s kind of a nice little nook,” says Alaniz.

Meanwhile, it remains unclear why all of these facilities should be rolled together into one large complex instead of separate facilities.

There are problems, for example, with having the CFL field double as a public fieldhouse. “The design and operational requirements of an admission based-spectator stadium are not naturally aligned with those of a public recreation facility,” says the city report.

Like the location, it hasn’t been thought through.

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