The iconic Calgary Saddledome … It’s gotta go! It’s gotta go now! Hurry! Hurry! This deal isn’t going to be on the table much longer! (Photo: James Teterenko, Creative Commons).

You’ve got to know that when the likes of Licia Corbella, Danielle Smith, Chris Nelson, Rick Bell, and sundry other right-wing Postmedia bloviators all want you to think that now is the perfect time for the Calgary Saddledome to be demolished and replaced by the (Ken) King Dome, it probably isn’t.

That’s just about the entire remaining staff of the Calgary Sun-Herald right there! And that’s just what was published in the Sun-Herald’s opinion columns in one day, last Friday!

Calgary Sports & Entertainment Corp. Vice-Chair Ken King (Photo: Rotary Club of Calgary).

These guys usually cast themselves as defenders of the little guy, the humble taxpayer. But when it comes to something that really matters, like big bucks for the billionaires who own the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames, all of a sudden they’re the fearless champions of the overdog!

To save readers time and eyestrain, I’m providing a key quote from each scribbler:

Ms. Corbella: A $275-million investment to get a new arena complex is a bargain.”

Ms. Smith: The sooner the Saddledome gets blown up the better.”

Mr. Nelson: “Time has taken its toll. The place isn’t equipped to handle the demands of today’s top music performers … Nor does the arena compete on a financial basis with others.”

Mr. Bell: City council is expected to vote Yes to the arena on Tuesday. If it is a no, the deal is dead but one day the city will still have to replace the Saddledome.”

Calgary Postmedia columnist Rick Bell (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

If readers are wondering why I didn’t include political columnist Don Braid, who declared the deal a winner for the city, it’s because he filed his effort on Thursday.

No, when a passel of billionaires want their taxpayer subsidy, Postmedia’s prepared to lay on the full court press to make sure they get it.

Mr. Bell’s piece may not have been the most elegantly written of the sampling above, but it was by far the most interesting because it appeared to be mainly a transcript of an interview Ken King, wherein the former publisher of the Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun, now vice-chair of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp. and a key negotiator on the arena deal, made his approach to bargaining pretty clear.

Calgary Postmedia columnist Licia Corbella (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

His message to Calgary City Council: “We’re not renegotiating. We are not re-trading the deal. You can’t say: OK, we’ve agreed to this, now let’s see how far we can push the other party. … An agreement is an agreement. You do not re-trade a deal.”

Well, actually, you can. Anybody who’s bought a used car understands, “Hurry! Hurry! This deal isn’t going to be on the table much longer!”

But Mr. King, understandably, wants to get this signed, sealed and delivered right now. He is, of course, as aware as the rest of us of the horrible optics of council giving his billionaire employers hundreds of millions of dollars at the same moment it’s cutting public transit, affordable housing, and fire and police services.

Calgary Postmedia regular contributor Danielle Smith (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

As an able former advertising salesman, I’m sure Mr. King also understands a gentle suggestion that if the deal goes away, the Flames might too, should be enough to stampede the nervous Nellies on Council.

What Council seems to have forgotten is that Mr. King is Mr. Calgary. He loves it there. When an employer moved him to Vancouver a few years back, I seem to recall he was back in Cowtown faster than you could yell yee-haw!

And who can blame him? The guy grew up in Hanley, Sask., for heaven’s sake, which nowadays has a population of about 500. As everyone knows, you can’t keep ’em down on the farm once they’ve seen Stampede.

And for those of you who have heard the song, but haven’t seen the picture, this is Warhol’s Portrait of Gretzky, on the wall of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

And consider for a moment the fate of Peter Pocklington, once upon a time part owner of the Edmonton Oilers. Mr. Pocklington is still reviled in Alberta’s capital city for trading Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings (no relation) in 1988. The anniversary of that black day in Edmonton history is in just 12 days. He will be spoken ill of again.

So if Calgary City Council had been paying attention instead of acting like a bunch of chumps, someone might have asked: Does Mr. Calgary really want to go down in history as the Peter Pocklington of Southern Alberta? Where would he retire if the Flames bugged off to wherever?

Well, it’s almost too late now. If this deal slides through on Tuesday, they really should name the new arena the King Dome, now that the name’s available again and the Flames obviously aren’t going to Seattle.

And if you happen live in Calgary and you’re still troubled by this lousy deal, you’ve now got two business days left to make your case. Good luck with that!

Join the Conversation


  1. Climenhaga’s piece about the mendacious scribblers over at Postmedia reminds me of the hit by the Baha Men: “Who Let the Dogs Out.” (See video link below)

    It’s not surprising that the voracious right-wing socialist-eating bloviators over at Postmedia would endorse corporate welfare for billionaire owners and millionaire hockey players — all being hypocrites of the first order.

    What is surprising though is that they couldn’t even wait for the paint to dry, so to speak, on the deal. The deal will apparently be finalized on Tuesday, unless some real taxpayers or citizens group emerges to file an injunction in the courts to delay the signing using inadequate opportunity for public consultation as the premise for a stay in proceedings.

    Postmedia’s cheerleading scribes next play will likely be a push for the new provincial government to toss in some coins to sweeten the deal for Calgary, since Edmonton received a few million dollars to aid Daryl Katz and the Edmonton Oilers when Rogers Place was being developed. Unless some shady backroom deal was concocted by the UCP government that Albertans don’t know about (don’t hold your breath on that), this is not a road either Postmedia or provincial politicians should go down.


  2. Stealing from the poor masses ( yeah, you Calgarians) to give to the rich is NOT democracy.

    the next time city council or any level of government says they have no money, don’t believe them. what they really mean is they don’t want to spend money to serve the public who elect them. Instead, they would rather squander public money to benefit large corporations and billionaires.

    Calgarians were robbed in broad daylight, and there is nothing they can do about it.

  3. I think the arena deal may be ok and it might even be the best one available. However I object to the haste it is being foisted on Calgary and its council. Is there something buried deep in there they don’t want people to see and why are they so determined to avoid or prevent more than a cursory review?

    The Herald/Sun cabal seems to have become unabashed cheerleaders and that is troubling too. It wouldn’t be the first time they neglected scrutinizing something and they have already got egg all over their face for it before.

    Mr. Bell’s quote is probably the most defensible and accurate. Yes, the city will probably have to eventually replace the Saddledome. However that is not a strong argument for having to make a deal in a few days. As for Ms. Corbella’s 275 million being a bargain – what planet does she live on? I have long ago concluded that for whatever reasons the paper keeps her, on it is not for the quality of her thought or writing. I generally find what she writes as being facile and easily challenged in 10 seconds or less. She needs to get of her bubble, see the real world and challenge some of her long held assumptions. As for Mr. Braid, one gets the sense he is going along to keep along here. He is capable of more scrutiny and independent thought, but I get the sense he got the memo, explicit or implicit, from the higher ups on this one.

    The Herald/Sun cabal sure does like their millionaire hockey team owner friends and really seem determined to help them get their new arena asap without much scrutiny or debate. The real questions are why and why the haste?

  4. Wow.. heart warming. It’s to all raise the “low morale” after cutting essential services for people who actually need them and giving the money to people who don’t.

    So how do you explain this to police officers and firemen/women who need quality protective equipment to do their job as safely as possible? I bet it sounds like this: “Gee sorry officer, that new plate you need in your bullet proof vest is not important, we decided to cut funding and give it to people who can afford to buy their own arena but need to laugh in our faces as they pocket the money and have nice lavish parties while people die from exposure on our city streets, thanks for your service officer, good luck …”

  5. I stopped reading Corbella’s column quite some time ago. Got tired of the one sided bias that she was bringing to most of her columns. The only one I read on a regular basis is Don Braid.

    Calgary Herald is one of the absolute worst large city newspapers that we have ever read.

  6. The deal isn’t *that* bad really. A significant step down from the $1B+ original proposal in the West Village.

    The city is still on the hook for infrastructure upgrades to the East Village to accomodate the arena AND picking up 90% of the Saddledome’s demolition costs.

    The biggest hurdle for me is the revenue sharing. It’s capped at 2% of gross (if I recall correctly… please correct me if I’m wrong). As Trevor Tombe alluded to (in his tweet thread about the lack of time-value-for-money accounting in the projections), that’s the sweetest financing deal in the history of financing. The City should have always insisted on a much stronger share of revenue, something perhaps approaching what it will cost to borrow the money for 35 years.

    Now maybe somebody can answer this question for me: why aren’t we letting bonds for this kind of thing? I grew up in the USA and was a reporter there for some time. Projects of all kinds are often financed by municipal bonds down there and they become much less controversial because the risk is spread out over many investors.

  7. Flames out if no arena deal? Balderdash.
    Those NHL owners don’t let any of their fellow fat cats leave town. The latest new franchise, Seattle, cost $650m, the windfall divided up equally among the other team owners. Why would multi-millionaires let the lowest value franchise, the Coyotes, move anywhere for free when they can shake down the new guys and collect over $21m each? Las Vegas same story three years ago. King knows he’s bluffing when he threatens to pull his team out of Calgary. The others would tell him to have a skate on the Bow in July.

    As for a Postmedia columnist saying 275 mill of public money for an arena is a bargain. Where’d she get her expertise? The Bernie Madoff playbook?

  8. I worked at the Saddledome. Considering the prices of tickets, concessions, merchandise and healthy attendance, and how little most employees are paid, King and any other such plutocrats should be run out of town on a rail for demanding public money. Taxpayers owe these greedy people absolutely nothing, the Saddledome and attached venues already gouge us mercilessly.

  9. AB market fundamentalist millionaire praising arena deal that is +50% public funding as an investment he’d buy into.

    appropriate Twitter reaction:

    Just saw Brett Wilson on global. His final sentence was ” I would invest in this arena”. Good do it, you rich jerks get your cheque books out and build the dam thing. #yycarena

  10. re Postmedia pouring it on for public funding for billionaire’s sports teams

    Right on cue the boosters at Postmedia design the front page headline today of Edmonton Sun to defend public funding for billionaires: “Boom Town – Ice District on fire as development moves into ‘second act’.

  11. I am curious was everyone as unhappy when the city of Edmonton payed $313 million towards Roger’s Place? Now I am not a Calgary resident and have only been to 1 Calgary Flames game to date. I certainly question why the City didn’t negotiate a higher than 2% ticket tax, plus with the city owning the facility they would be responsible for demolition costs when it reaches the end of its usefulness. Was it the best deal Calgary could get? I really don’t know, I do know it costs to much money to go to a Flames game now imo, it will not get cheaper in a new facility. Enjoy your day.

  12. I am certainly don’t think that the Edmonton residents should have paid for Roger’s Place, and I sure David C can speak to that. I don’t think that it is fair that the hockey or concert fans, should pay for something that they cannot afford. If the owners can pay for the obscene salaries of the hockey players then there is no reason that they cannot afford to pay for this arena. It is high time that the fans to realize that the economics are not good and that the feelings that people have such things can’t justify spending any amount of money. If the Flames were to leave, then leave. I would shed a tear if the City Council voted no and they were to go somewhere else.

  13. Here is a posting from Susan On The Soapbox on this issue:

    The details that are in this post are very useful for countering those who think that this arena is a really good deal. I think that everyone needs to use this issue when the next city council election comes up in 2021. For me, it won’t the only issue, but it will be important in choosing candidates. My alderman, Ward Sutherland, voted yes on this deal and this will one more reason to not vote for him.

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