The Scotiabank Saddledome was built for two purposes when it opened in 1983. The Calgary Flames were in desperate need of a new arena to replace the tired and outdated Stampede Corral, while the city needed a new venue as the cornerstone of its bid for the 1988 Winter Olympics. The result of this was this building, originally the Olympic Saddledome, then the Canadian Airlines Saddledome and Pengrowth Saddledome, which was constructed at a cost of 97.7 million Canadian dollars.
While the anchor tenant is currently the Flames, the building also hosts the Calgary hitmen of the Western Hockey League and the Calgary Roughnecks of the National Lacrosse League. In the past the arena has also seen use for basketball (Calgary 88s and Calgary Outlaws), roller hockey (Calgary Redz) and numerous junior hockey and Canadian Cup competitions. Famously the Scotiabank Saddledome also hosted figure skating and hockey at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
The Saddledome was the first arena in North America built to accommodate international sized hockey rinks which are 13 feet wider than the standard NHL rinks. The initial capacity for hockey was set at 16,605 because the upper lounges were not completed. With a scandal brewing about ticket allocation being skewed toward major donors and sponsors, the city fast tracked in extra seating bringing the attendance up to 20,016. This made it the largest arena ever used at the winter games and led the International Ice Hockey Federation to name the Saddledome “the finest international rink in the world.”
The Saddledome has undergone numerous changes throughout the years in a bid to keep up with the newer arenas in the league. There are 72 luxury suites in the venue, along with six party suites on the corners of the upper lounges which are only rentable on an event by event basis. There are also a number of exclusive bars and clubs within the building which require memberships to access. These are the seats and amenities which add value to the gameday experience.
As the Saddledome is one of the older arenas in the league a new facility is often the topic of conversation among Flames fans. One recent proposal is for $900 million development which would have a 20,000 seater hockey arena for the Flames and a 30,000 seat indoor stadium for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL. This would be built in downtown Calgary, but would call for taxpayer help in the funding.
Until a new arena emerges the Flames will continue to play in a building which once hosted some of the great NHL teams. One of the features of the Saddledome is that every wall of the building seems to be filled with photos and other memorabilia of both Flames teams and other sporting events which have taken place in the building. It seems that whenever there is not a concession stand right in front of you there is something to look at on the wall which will take you back to the Flames glory days. A whole exhibit dedicated to remembering the 1988 Winter Olympics is also well worth a look.
image courtesy of scotiabanksaddledome.com