The Scotiabank Saddledome, which opened in 1983, is the second-oldest NHL arena. (Getty Images)

Firms to design arena for NHL’s Flames, Calgary Stampede

The two architecture firms that designed Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, have been selected to develop a new arena for the NHL’s Calgary Flames. The team of HOK and Dialog, a local company, won the job, said multiple sources familiar with the decision.

The Calgary Municipal Land Corp. is project development manager for the arena, which at this point is called the Calgary Event Centre. Asked about a design choice, Clare LePan, vice president of marketing and communications for the organization, wrote in an email, “We have no comment or update at this time.”

HOK could not confirm the selection, company spokesperson Annie Merrill said. Dialog officials in Toronto did not return a phone call for comment.

HOK and Dialog collaborated on the design of Rogers Place, the Edmonton Oilers’ arena, which opened in 2016. HOK’s sports practice is based in Kansas City. Dialog has offices in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto, as well as San Francisco.

On its own, HOK designed Little Caesars Arena, home to the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and the NBA’s Pistons, which opened in 2017. 

Sources said those two highly acclaimed projects, both of which received industry awards, played a key role for HOK/Dialog winning the job. 

“More so because of Little Caesars; the Flames love that building,” one source said.

Since those two arenas opened, HOK has gone through significant turnover, including two architects that played principal roles in Detroit and Edmonton. George Heinlein, co-founder of the old 360 Architecture acquired by HOK in 2015 and who served as principal-in-charge of Little Caesars Arena, retired at the end of 2017, and Ryan Gedney, who worked on both the Edmonton and Detroit buildings, joined HNTB in late 2018.

It hasn’t stopped HOK from winning big league arena projects. The company is planning a $230 million makeover of Talking Stick Resort Arena, home of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.

In Calgary, HOK’s competition was formidable. A pair of high-profile firms working in town teamed up to bid for the Flames’ project.

Detroit-based Rossetti had consulted with the Flames over the past few years to develop a new arena tied to a master plan for a sports and entertainment district. Populous is part of the group designing the $370 million renovation of BMO Centre, Calgary’s convention center. 

The two firms typically compete against each other for projects. On its own, Populous is designing new NHL arenas in Seattle and New York.

The other finalists were Manica Architecture/Brisbin Brook Beynon/S2 and NBBJ/Stantec.

The Flames’ arena project has a tight budget of about $300 million in hard construction costs for a 725,000-square-foot arena. 

The site, just north of Stampede Park near the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Flames’ current arena, is 6.9 acres, according to the request for proposal issued in January. The Saddledome, which opened in 1983 and is the NHL’s second-oldest facility behind Madison Square Garden, will be torn down after the new arena opens.

The Flames and the city of Calgary are splitting the cost to equally fund the project. The total cost of $410 million covers soft costs such as fees for the architects, general contractor and structural engineer. Any cost overruns will mostly be shared by the team and the city.

The 19,000-seat arena will also be home home to the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen and National Lacrosse League’s Calgary Roughnecks, along with the Calgary Stampede. The city’s yearly rodeo, and exhibition historically draws more than 1 million attendees over 10 days.

Final design will be completed by December and construction will start in August 2021, according to the proposal. The timetable calls for the arena to open in May 2024, in time for that year’s Calgary Stampede, which is traditionally held every July.

At this point, it’s unclear whether the timeline will be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The Calgary Municipal Land Corp. has postponed interviews for a construction manager until further notice because of the situation, sources said.