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Flames say Saddledome will be ready for NHL preseason

This file photo from Friday, June 21, 2013 shows the Soctiabank Saddledome at Stampede Park in the city of Calgary under water up to the 10th row of seats as the city faced a state of emergency after the river crested early in the morning.

Bud Moore/The Globe and Mail

The dressing rooms are being rebuilt. Mechanical equipment is being replaced. Even the Calgary Flames' administrative staffers have moved back into their offices.

Slowly yet steadily, the restoration of the Scotiabank Saddledome continues in the wake of June's mammoth flooding, which caused the inside of the 19,000-seat facility to fill with enough water to submerge the entire rink area and the first eight rows of seats.

On Tuesday, team and building officials met to discuss where they were in their efforts and if they could still meet their target date of having the Saddledome ready for hockey by Sept. 1. That would allow the Flames to play their four home preseason games at the Saddledome in preparation for their NHL regular season home opener Oct. 6 against the Vancouver Canucks.

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"From a public standpoint, and from a hockey standpoint, we want everything to be operational. This week was the time to decide if we could proceed as planned," Flames' president and CEO Ken King said Wednesday, "and the answer is yes."

Once the flood water from the nearby Bow River was pumped out of the Saddledome, engineers conducted tests to determine the structural integrity of the almost 30-year-old building. The Flames said everything was checked accordingly and that the current work consists of installing new kitchen areas and new seats while also replacing the electronic headquarters for the arena's digital-screen scoreboard.

"We have orders in for new ice-making equipment," King said. "We have a backup plant that we may not need but we have it ready. All of our event-floor equipment is new."

No official cost has been put on the damage done to the Saddledome. All King would say on the subject was the facility has insurance coverage and that the paperwork is being done.

As with any renovation work, things can go off the rails – unexpected problems can pop up, delays can occur. King repeated all was on time and proceeding well, although he did acknowledge backup plans had been discussed. Beyond that, he declined comment.

Already, the Flames have preseason games slated for Saskatoon (Sept. 16 against the Ottawa Senators) and Regina (Sept. 17 against the New York Islanders). If they had to play more preseason games outside of the Saddledome, the possibilities are limited – the nearby 6,400-seat Stampede Corral, Red Deer's 6,700-seat Centrium and the 5,400-seat Enmax Centre in Lethbridge. The situation would be far more intense if regular-season games were in jeopardy of being rescheduled or relocated.

To this point, the Flames don't believe that will happen.

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With so much effort being put into reopening of the city-owned, Flames-operated Saddledome, little has been said about the possibility of a new arena – one built either on the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede grounds or elsewhere in the city. Sources have insisted if the Flames want a new facility, one where they could retain a greater percentage of the revenues, it would take almost three years to build.

The Flames' Saddledome lease expires in 2014 and the club may have no option but to stay in the arena it has called home since October, 1983.

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About the Author
Sports writer

Allan Maki is a national news reporter and sports writer based in Calgary. He joined the Globe and Mail in 1997 with an extensive sports background having covered Stanley Cup finals, the Grey Cup, Summer and Winter Olympics, the 1980 Miracle on Ice, the 1989 Super Bowl riot and the 1989 earthquake World Series. More

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