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Flames need new arena: Gary Bettman

Commissioner discusses replacing 'old, antiquated' Saddledome in visit to Calgary

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

CALGARY -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stressed the need for a new arena for the Calgary Flames to replace an "old, antiquated" Scotiabank Saddledome on Wednesday, one day after his first visit to a completed Rogers Place in downtown Edmonton.

"I think everybody knows the new arena is important on a whole host of levels for a whole host of reasons," said Commissioner Bettman, who is on a four-day tour of NHL cities in Canada that continues in Vancouver on Thursday and concludes in Ottawa on Friday. "You've got to get from here to there, and since I tend to be an optimist by nature, I'm hoping that on both sides, not that there are sides, but the city and the Flames can figure this out.

"It's important. It's vitally important that it gets done."

The Edmonton Oilers started play this season at Rogers Place, which seats 18,642. Bettman helped facilitate the deal between the city of Edmonton and Oilers owner Daryl Katz that led to the construction of the $480 million arena and the surrounding entertainment district that remains under development.

"I was quoted last night as saying, 'I hope it's inspirational,'" Commissioner Bettman said. "If you talk to [Calgary] Mayor [Naheed] Nenshi, he may tell you that the circumstances may vary in one way or another. You talk to the Flames and they'll tell you their situation is a little different.

"But a great deal was accomplished. Frankly, what was done in Edmonton is nothing short of phenomenal. That arena and the Ice District are incredible. If that can serve, on some basis, as either inspiration or motivation, while not necessarily a blueprint, per se, but as a framework that helps get this done as quickly as possible, that would be a good thing."

When the Detroit Red Wings move from Joe Louis Arena to Little Caesars Arena for the 2017-18 season, the Saddledome, built in 1983, will become the oldest arena in the NHL.

"This building was built in the 1980s," the Commissioner said. "They don't build buildings like this anymore. It's a grand old building, it's got a great roof line. It's historic in many ways. But these aren't the facilities that our hockey teams typically have … this is an old, antiquated building.

"And in terms of amenities for the fans, which is the most important thing, it doesn't hold a candle to what's been done in new arenas."

In August 2015, the Flames unveiled CalgaryNEXT, an $890 million plan for a new hockey arena, covered football stadium and a multisport field house in Calgary's West Village, and another location just north of the Saddledome also has been billed as a possible option.

"There's an ongoing process, discussion, with the city," Commissioner Bettman said. "My guess is as in all of these processes, there are times where it appears that it's taking too long and people get frustrated, but if the dialogue's continuing and they're making progress, then there's cause to be optimistic.

"In the final analysis, I don't think anybody would doubt that this team and this city need a new arena. The key is going to be what's the vision for the arena, where it's going to be and how do the economics of it work.

"Those are things that I know are being worked on."

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