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What’s in a name? Event centre versus NHL arena in Calgary

In the discussion over building a replacement for Calgary’s Saddledome, city councillors and officials have taken to calling a proposed replacement an Event Centre, rather than an arena.

So, why do stakeholders insist on it being called an Event Centre? We think this is the most succinct answer to date.

After the Jan. 25 Event Centre Assessment Committee and the delivery of an economic impact analysis of the Rivers District redevelopment, much of the debate focused less on the economic impact and more on the vernacular to describe one of the prime cogs of the Victoria Park / Stampede renaissance – the arena.

In Episode 11 of the Common Ground YYC podcast with host Josh White, the president and CEO of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, Michael Brown, pulled no punches in his explanation.

While we’re pulling out this explanation as an excerpt, the context he delivers in explaining the East Village redevelopment and how they plan to go about the Rivers District redevelopment is well worth the listen to get a fulsome understanding of the vision.

Brown said when you take a look at the current site of the Scotiabank Saddledome, “you don’t realize what the potential is for that type of a building.”

He said they’ve learned lessons from the development of Edmonton’s Rogers Centre, making it very clear that’s not what they want.

Brown said in Edmonton they’ve created a structure meant to keep people inside the building – a very inward-looking project. It’s the opposite of what they envision here in Calgary, he said.

That’s how we get into the term “Event Centre.”

“There’s a reason why we use language event centre instead of arena,” Brown said.

“There’s an element of sell, which is quite correct. You have to redefine the discussion of the community.

“An arena is a place where you play hockey that you happen to figure out how to do concerts in. What an event centre is, is a place where you have concerts, you can have galleries, you can have pop ups, you can have activities – that you happen to be able to play hockey in.”

He goes on to say that most arenas are built with the arena as the first thought and the public space secondary. He said their idea is to reverse that and create a public realm first with an arena that fits within it.

Brown says it’s a vision he believes the Calgary Flames organization understands.

Check out the full podcast as Josh and Michael dive into the East Village, the Rivers District and the evolution of Calgary’s east downtown vision.