The 2023 election is over in Alberta, and the debate continues about the promise made by UCP leader Danielle Smith in April to pledge $330 million toward building a new arena in Calgary. Oilers Now Host Bob Stauffer brought up the subject in the first two segments of his show the day after the election on May 30.
He mentioned an interesting point about provincial funding and wondered if the UCP Government would give $330 million to the Edmonton Oilers to compensate for the new arena they opened in 2016. It would only be fair, right?
Beneficial to Calgary and Albertans?
Calgary’s Saddledome was built in the early 1980s to host the 1988 Olympic Winter Games and become the official home of the Flames. It has served its purpose just like Rexall Place did for Edmonton. Even though Edmonton’s Rogers Place has had its share of challenges, it has helped revitalize the city’s downtown.
Many cities were hit hard by the pandemic, and office leasing is still recovering. Edmonton’s downtown needs work and time to recover, just like in Calgary. However, cities like Indianapolis provide an example of why investing in a new arena is a good idea. Look at Arizona. Sure Mullett Arena and its 5,000-seat capacity is working, but it’s not sustainable. That’s why when an opportunity comes up to support a new arena in Calgary, even an Oilers fan such as myself can get behind it.
What Do Alberta Fans Think?
I’m wondering what hockey fans in Alberta think about this. Some might feel the same as I do – I might be a lifelong fan of the Oilers going back to the days of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, but I also have a soft spot for Calgary. I’ve hated the Flames at times, and yet I have a lot of respect for players such as Lanny McDonald, Jarome Iginla, and Al MacInnis – the first Nova Scotian inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. I’ve even cheered for Theo Fleury, especially when Canada won the first gold medal in Olympic Men’s Hockey in 50 years at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. I’m a hockey fan first, that’s why I hope Calgary gets their new arena.
Fanning the Flames for a New Calgary Arena
Yes, $330 million would go a long way in helping rural hospitals in Alberta keep their emergency rooms open. It could be used to hire more teachers for crowded classrooms or help with the growing trend of homelessness and mental health issues in the province. People also say that billionaire owners should pay for their own buildings. All good arguments.
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However, there’s more than enough money to go around in a resource-rich province like Alberta. The key is to distribute it strategically and wisely. So, I can hope Calgary gets their new barn built and also that emergency rooms are well-staffed and more teachers are hired and more Albertans get the help they need.
Hoping for a New Era in the Battle of Alberta
A new arena could also up the stakes in the Battle of Alberta. We had a taste of it in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Oilers handed the Flames their lunch in a 4-1 second-round series victory. I can also imagine how the provincial rivalry might heat up if Calgary got the money to build their new arena.
If I had a wish list, I’d want Edmonton and Calgary to have two of the best arenas in the NHL. I’d want Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to win multiple Stanley Cups in Edmonton, and former Oilers goalie Bill Ranford to get the recognition he deserves and be voted into the Hall of Fame. I’d also want both Jonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri to have bounce-back seasons because I want the Flames to succeed to bring the Battle of Alberta back to what it was during the Stanley Cup-winning days of both franchises.
I saw a lot of hate on social media over this election, and I hope Albertans can mend some of these broken fences. Hockey could be one way to help. From the community rinks in small towns like Vermilion and Dewberry to the best facilities in the world in Edmonton and Calgary, hockey can unite us, and give us all something to look forward to. That’s what I hope a new arena could do in terms of strengthening the Flames’ franchise and igniting a new era of the Battle of Alberta for a new generation of fans.