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Public feedback on new Calgary arena project delivered to committee

Ticket prices and parking were the biggest barriers to Calgarians’ participation in the Saddledome, something the CMLC hopes to address in the new Event Centre.

That was some of the feedback delivered to Friday’s Event Centre Assessment Committee in a What We Heard public engagement report, commissioned by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), who is leading the project.

The 56-page report, which summarizes more than 14,500 online responses, 1,977 in-person interactions and five roundtable discussions, charted the path for what Calgarians expect out of a new, $550 million event centre and arena complex.

Three-quarters of respondents noted ticket prices as the biggest barrier to attending the current Saddledome events. Nearly half suggested parking and uninteresting events as barriers. Safety was also addressed in the report.

“(There were) concerns around ticket prices and how there was opportunity to have a variety of ticket prices to support a greater attendance and diversity in types of events taking place,” said CMLC Vice President of Communications and Marketing, Clare LePan.

Not surprisingly, most people attend the Saddledome for Calgary Flames games or major music concerts.

The report showed Calgarians’ perspectives on what should be on both the inside and outside of the new arena – and in the surrounding Culture and Entertainment District.  There was an emphasis on both local commercial opportunities and diversity of offerings.

CMLC Calgary EventCentreReport by Darren Krause on Scribd

New Event Centre with respect to diversity, inclusivity

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said with the recent public consultation on systemic racism, it was important that the new event centre area be welcoming and accessible to all.

He said Friday’s event centre report talked about diversity of programming. Nenshi noted that in the postal code analysis of the responses, there was a lower response rate in areas that have a higher non-white population.

“One of the criticisms that we sometimes talk about on the side but we’ve never really surfaced, is that the existing facility looks pretty whitespace, other than the people that work there,” Mayor Nenshi said.

“If all of the public is paying. It shouldn’t be only for a slice of the public.”

Mayor Nenshi asked if again about the diversity in programming.

“I’m going to be very blunt. Are we taking that seriously? Are we ensuring that the people who are paying for this will be able to see the inside of it?” Nenshi said.

“This place isn’t just for hockey and expensive concerts. It has to be a place with events that are accessible to the community.”

CMLC president and CEO Kate Thompson said it’s important that everyone feel comfortable in the area. She said it was a critical component they took to their design team.

“What CMLC does try to do is to be inclusive of a range of users. We don’t know always who those users are going to be in our public spaces,” said Thompson.

“And for us, we do see that as a key pillar for the design team to take to heart, and to translate into the design.”

COVID-19 and the building design

Coun. Jeff Davison, chair of the Event Centre Assessment Committee, said much of the work that’s been done to date was pre-COVID-19.

He asked what a post-COVID-19 mega facility looked like. He asked how it might address ongoing public health concerns, or a potential future pandemic.

“How do we take the learnings of the past 12, 14 weeks, and apply that into this build,” he asked.

Thompson said that it’s something they’re working with on several CMLC projects. For the events centre and culture and entertainment district, Thompson said consultants are addressing it.

The team that was announced to design the event centre has experience with major arena designs. Since they’re in a pre-design stage, they can address many of the potential health concerns.

“I mean looking at the macro in terms of entries and spaces between each other as you kind of access the building. Even surfaces; looking at what surfaces can be, and beyond,” Thompson said.

LePan said the challenge is taking in all the feedback and the shift in social and public health norms. They have to create an area that is suited for 2025, but also for decades into the future.

As its final act before disbanding, the Event Centre Assessment Committee received the report and asked that it be forward to council.

All future work on the project will go through the Event Centre Steering Committee.