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Scotiabank Saddledome

Calgary, AB

Home of the Calgary Flames

3.9

3.0

Scotiabank Saddledome (map it)
555 Saddledome Rise SE
Calgary, AB T2G 2W1
Canada


Calgary Flames website

Scotiabank Saddledome website

Year Opened: 1983

Capacity: 19,289

There are no tickets available at this time.

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Flame Forward

The Atlanta Flames relocated to Calgary in 1980 and immediately enjoyed their best season in franchise history, battling their way to the semi-finals in the playoffs. That team played in the Stampede Corral and packed the 6,500 seat stadium all season long, in spite of having the most expensive tickets in the NHL, at a whopping $25 each.

The Flames spent their first three years playing in the Corral before moving to their brand new home, built only a few metres to the east: the Olympic Saddledome. The Saddledome was also constructed in anticipation of the 1988 Winter Olympics and was able to pack in almost three times as many fans as the old Corral.

Over the years, the Saddledome has seen a few renovations, increased seating capacity and a couple name changes and is now known as the Scotiabank Saddledome.

At over 30 years of age, the Saddledome is showing some signs of age, but the renovations have helped. However in 2015 the Calgary Flames’ management company proposed CalgaryNEXT, a new multi-purpose facility on the west side of downtown which would spell the end of the line for the ‘Dome if it gets built.

3.9

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    5

There is a great variety of choices around the Scotiabank Saddledome for Flames games. Although the options at the concession stands have been reduced somewhat over the last few years, eliminating some of the more exotic stands and focusing on the more popular options, there are still more choices in this building than in any other stadium in Alberta. Or Saskatchewan for that matter.

The main concession stands, each named for the section in front of which they are situated, have all the garden variety options we expect at an arena. Hot dogs ($4.75), nachos ($6.75), popcorn ($5.75), and pop ($4.50) can all be found in these locations. You'll also typically be able to buy Budweiser and Kokanee on tap ($8.75); at many spots there are a couple more specialty beer choices as well.

There are also numerous specialty stands throughout the concourse. The Dog House serves, you guessed it, gourmet hot dogs. There's the Flame Broiled BBQ for a little fancier burgers. At the Skyline Deli you can pick up deli-style sandwiches. During a recent visit I tried the Sicilian Grilled Cheese sandwich ($8.50) at the Mac Shack, which was a dangerously large amount of havarti cheese with pepperoni and tomato sauce on three thick slices of bread with home-cooked kettle chips on the side. If you like cheese (which I do) this is an amazing option.

There are a number of specialty stops for adult beverages located around the concourse as well, so if Bud isn't your thing, you still have plenty of places to find something else.

You'll also find Pizza 73, Jugo Juice and The Good Earth Coffeehouse among the franchise locations.

Beyond all that, there are several bars and restaurants around the Saddledome. The Budweiser King Club, Dutton's Lounge, the Saddledome Restaurant, the Iconic Platinum Club (formerly known as the Olympic Lounge) and the Avison Young Club are all situated within the building, providing fans with a number of different dining options and experiences.

Is this the best food you'll ever eat at a hockey arena? Probably not. But you've got to drive close to 1,000 km to find anything comparable.

Atmosphere    4

The Calgary Flames have been inconsistent for much of the 21st century. The fans, consequently, haven't had a lot to cheer about for much of that time, although a playoff run in 2015 gave hope to locals.

The good news is that the current rebuilding effort has resulted in a young, hungry team that plays an entertaining brand of hockey, even if wins have not come as frequently as some might like.

Nevertheless, the Scotiabank Saddledome continues to draw sellout crowds night after night (according to ESPN they haven't been below 99 percent attendance since at least the 2005-06 season), so there is still considerable energy in the stands. Calgary sports fans are traditionally pretty docile, but they've become more comfortable with cheering and booing where appropriate over the years, so the place generally has a pretty fun, exciting feel to it on most nights, even during nights when the hometown squad is struggling. The sound monitor never drops below 80 dBA, which is a pretty decent background level.

Neighborhood    3

The annual Calgary Stampede has been going on for more than a century now. It is held on a large plot of land just southeast of Calgary's downtown core. The Saddledome is located on the northeast corner of the Stampede Grounds.

The immediate vicinity to the north, known as Victoria Park, doesn't have the best reputation in town. However, there has been a substantial amount of gentrification in the area in the last few years and things are starting to perk up, with huge condo complexes being built to the immediate north of the Stampede Grounds. The same thing has also been happening to the west of the grounds. And some of those complexes have some kind of restaurant or bar on the ground floor.

If the community continues to gentrify at its current rate, the neighborhood aspect of this stadium experience could improve in pretty short order.

Loungeburger, located in one of the condo buildings to the west, right across Macleod Trail from the Stampede Grounds, is a quality purveyor of gourmet burgers. They aren't cheap, but they are usually tasty. I recommend the Black and Blu Burger.

On the northwest corner of the Stampede Grounds, you'll find Cowboys Casino, which contains several restaurants, including Melrose Cafe. Try the Twisted Mac & Cheese for some comfort food kicked up a notch.

Across the street from Cowboys Casino is Vagabond, which has a menu with something for everyone on it, a wide variety of beers (50-plus listed on their menu), and which seems to have made a special effort to cater to pre and post-event crowds.

Just a few blocks due west of the Stampede Grounds on 17th Ave you'll find a string of clubs and bars that came to be known as "The Red Mile" during the Flames' playoff run in 2004. There you'll find the Ship and Anchor Pub, which has been named Best Neighbourhood Pub in Calgary by local publication "Fast Forward Weekly" on numerous occasions.

Fans    4

Calgary Flames fans are a dedicated bunch who show up and cheer for their team whether they're winning or not. The Flames have had 99 percent attendance or better since at least the 2005-2006 season. On the other hand, although the game I attended had an announced sellout crowd, there were hundreds of empty seats in the stands, particularly in the expensive Avison Young section in the lower west bowl.

There typically are a significant number of fans for the opposing team proudly showing up in their team's colours and cheering their faces off. But overall that makes for a fair bit of engagement in the game, and good fan noise.

Access    3

Calgary has the second-highest downtown parking rates in North America, behind only New York City. Parking on the grounds will cost you $15 and, depending on what other events are going on around the area, might fill up quickly.

To make matters worse, as the Stampede continues to expand, new buildings chew up the precious parking spots. Signage in the area seems to indicate that all the parking to the north of the Saddledome is earmarked for new Stampede buildings in the coming years, meaning a steadily shrinking availability of parking.

There are also choices off-site for slightly less expensive parking. A few local residents rent out yard space for parking and there is some metered street parking in the vicinity for people willing to do a little walking.

The good news is that being centrally located means the Saddledome is fairly easy to get to from all directions. The bad news is that getting away after the game can be frustratingly slow at times. My last experience wasn't so bad, however, as fans began streaming out of the 'Dome by late in the third period when it became clear the Flames were going to lose.

Another option is taking Calgary's Light Rail Transit system to the game. The "C-Train" has two stops on the west side of the Stampede Grounds, one to the south and one on the north end which has a connecting walkway that will take you directly to the Saddledome.

The LRT tracks cover a significant amount of the city running north and south, and the West Leg has made traveling east-to-west much better as well. So it can be a more convenient option for fans not wanting the hassle of driving downtown, although the trains can get very crowded after events.

City Transit is continuing C-Train expansion, however, with plans to go to four-car trains in just a couple years. An adult fare for Calgary Transit is $3, youths are $2.

In our post-9/11 world, security at the front doors to sports venues has gotten steadily tighter over the last few years and the Saddledome is no exception. They have a reputation for being especially picky about "professional cameras." Basically, anything that doesn't easily fit in your pants pocket will be rejected at the door, even if it is a point-and-shoot with less power and functionality than the camera on your smart phone. So be forewarned and don't waste your time trying to get your $100 Nikon through the gate.

Once inside the Scotiabank Saddledome you'll find yourself dealing with what is typically the single biggest complaint about the building: the concourse is very small by modern standards, making getting around a challenge, to put it mildly. Between periods and after the game the halls are jam-packed with people. Lineups for the washrooms are insanely long, backing way out into the concourse and making a bad situation worse. It might have been deemed roomy enough in 1983, but these days it is easily one of the top five tightest of any of the arenas I've been to.

So far as I can tell, structurally there isn't really a fix to this issue, short of building CalgaryNEXT. So either Calgary will just continue to deal with dense crowds or they'll figure out a way to fund the ambitious new project.

Return on Investment    3

Prices for Flames tickets range from $30 per seat up in the Sport Chek Zone up to $460 per seat in the Avison Young section of the lower bowl. With an average price of $265 for the 2014-2015 season, that made the Saddledome the fifth most expensive venue in the NHL according to Forbes.

Clearly, if the Flames are able to sell the place out every night the demand is there, even if they're in the top third for ticket prices. This is a hockey-first market where fans eat, sleep and breathe the Flames and will fork out big bucks to pay for the privilege of attending a game. From an objective standpoint though, it's not the best return on investment in town.

Extras    5

There are a number of added extras when you come see the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The walls of the building are lined with memorabilia, photos and trophies commemorating great teams and events from years past in the Calgary area. Wherever there is a space that doesn't have a concession stand in it, you can find a display, assuming you can get to them through the crowds.

Among those displays is an exhibit remembering the 1988 Winter Olympics, a wall dedicated to Calgary's hockey heritage, plaques for the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame, and so forth.

You'll also find a couple locations of Flames Fan Attic for all your souvenir needs.

Harvey The Hound keeps the kids amused in the stands during the game with his antics.

Looking up into the south rafters, you'll see the large row of banners earned by the Flames in their time in the NHL. If you're seated in the upper bowl on the south end, you get a great, up-close look at those banners.

The music played during stoppages in the action on the ice is a nice combination of current hits, classic rock, some country and some good old fashioned stadium organ music which adds some nice flavour to the 'Dome's atmosphere.

All the usual giveaways and contests that you might expect at a pro hockey game are mixed into the program during stoppages in the action.

One other nice touch which I appreciate is that there are recycling bins located throughout the concourse so environmentally conscious fans can ensure their garbage doesn't just wind up in a landfill.

Final Thoughts

I have enjoyed some fantastic memories while attending Flames games over the years. Whether it was seeing the Flames pull off the dramatic overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks in Game Seven of the first round of the 1989 playoffs or hanging out with my friends in the nosebleed seats back when they used to play the Montreal Canadiens every New Year's Eve, it was always a great time. And although the Flames aren't quite the dynasty they used to be in the late 80s and early 90s, going to the Saddledome to take in a Flames game is still always a good time.

The question these days is whether or not the 'Dome's days are numbered....

Streetview inside!

It is now possible to get Google Maps Streetview inside the Saddledome concourses and with views into the seating bowl - definitely give this a look to see exactly how the arena looks and feels.

by RobbieRaskin | Mar 13, 2014 07:55 PM

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Crowd Reviews

Back in the Saddle

Total Score: 4.29

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 5
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 5

One of the oldest and by far the most unique buildings in the NHL, construction on the then Olympic Saddledome, designed to reflect Calgary's Western heritage, began in 1980 with the arrival of the Calgary Flames and the city's victorious bid for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. The Flames moved into their new digs in 1983 after spending the first few years of their existence across the parking lot, under the roof of the Stampede Corral. The original seating capacity was 16,605 until 2,600 additional seats were added to accommodate the Olympic crowds, and the building reached its peak capacity at 20,016 patrons, making it the largest arena ever to host the Winter Olympic Games.

Major renovations totaling approximately $37 million in the mid-nineties and amidst threats of team relocation saw the Saddledome receive 41 luxury boxes, a club section that seats over 1700 people, and a new restaurant, amongst other upgrades. The Scotiabank Saddledome became one of the most well known and easily recognizable NHL arenas during the Flames' 2004 run to the Stanley Cup Finals, and despite even more recent additions like the high-definition score board raised above centre ice, talk of a new arena up North (Edmonton) has spurred similar discussions here in Calgary. Construction on a new building to house the Flames, along with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen and the Calgary Roughnecks of the National Lacrosse League, will likely begin when the Flames' current lease expires in 2014.

Hayley Mutch is the managing editor at Matchsticks and Gasoline.

Flames in the Saddle

Total Score: 3.86

  • Food & Beverage: 5
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 5

The Atlanta Flames relocated to Calgary in 1980 and immediately enjoyed their best season in franchise history, battling their way to the semi-finals in the playoffs. That team played in the Stampede Corral and packed the 6,500 seat stadium all season long, in spite of having the most expensive tickets in the NHL, at a whopping $25 each.

The Flames would spend their first three years playing in the Corral before moving to their brand new home, built only a few metres to the east, the Olympic Saddledome. The Saddledome was also constructed in anticipation of the 1988 Winter Olympics and was able to pack in almost three times as many fans as the old Corral.

Over the years, the Saddledome has seen a few renovations and a couple name changes and is now known as the Scotiabank Saddledome.

After three decades, the Saddledome is starting to show some signs of age, but the renovations have helped the ‘Dome age gracefully.

The Saddledome's Main Event

Total Score: 3.71

  • Food & Beverage: 5
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 4

The Atlanta Flames relocated to Calgary in 1980 and immediately enjoyed their best season in franchise history, battling their way to the semi-finals in the playoffs. That team played in the Stampede Corral and packed the 6,500 seat stadium all season long, in spite of having the most expensive tickets in the NHL, at a whopping $25 each.

The Flames would spend their first three years playing in the Corral before moving to their brand new home, built only a few metres to the east, the Olympic Saddledome. The Saddledome was also constructed in anticipation of the 1988 Winter Olympics and was able to pack in almost three times as many fans as the old Corral.

Over the years, the Saddledome has seen a few renovations, increased seating capacity and a couple name changes. It is now known as the Scotiabank Saddledome.

At over 30 years of age, the Saddledome is starting to show some signs of age, but the renovations have helped the ‘Dome age gracefully.

Calgary Flames - Scotiabank Saddledome

Total Score: 3.43

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 4
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 1

One of the most unique arenas left in the NHL. Location at Stampede Park is decent with plenty of parking and still pretty close to downtown. Food options are decent. However, press level has numerous seats that have views obstructed by railings. Use a 3D seat viewer when choosing seats. Camera policy is over the top with all cameras that don't fit in your pocket being deemed professional grade.

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Local Food & Drink

Loungeburger  (map it!)

1331 Macleod Trail S

Calgary, AB T2G 0K3

(403) 250-2747

http://www.loungeburger.com/

Melrose Cafe & Bar  (map it!)

730 17 Ave SW

Calgary, AB T2S0B7

(403) 228-3566

http://www.melrosecalgary.com/

Ship and Anchor Pub  (map it!)

534 17 Ave SW

Calgary, AB T2S 0B1

(403) 245-3333

http://www.shipandanchor.com/

Vagabond  (map it!)

1129 Olympic Way SE

Calgary, AB T2G 0L4

(403) 454-6670

http://vagabondcalgary.com/

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