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Home sweet 'Dome no more?

The Flames commissioned a study looking into their options for a new hockey arena. This photo is a...

The Flames commissioned a study looking into their options for a new hockey arena. This photo is a composite of two pictures inside their present home. (Sun File/Mike Drew)

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

Ken King understands the excitement.

As president and CEO of the Calgary Flames, he can relate to the anticipation fans feel about a new home for the team.

Think of moving into a new house: Everything is so shiny, clean and -- in the case of hockey arenas being built in the last few years -- state-of-the-art and top-of-the-line.

Still, King has a warning for those who are starting to count the days: Don't get too anxious just yet.

"It's important to remember we're not building a new building today," King said. "We're not building a new building tomorrow. We're planning for the future."

When that future is -- you know the Flames won't call the Saddledome home for another 25 years -- isn't set in stone. But that's not to say there are no clues.

King has said in the past, plans for a new arena are five to eight years away.

Another inkling is the fact the lease is up in 2014.

The Flames commissioned a study, looking into their options -- whether to put up a new building or try renovating the 'Dome again and where to break ground if the plan calls for a new barn.

Location isn't even concrete, with options out there, but the most likely is remaining on the Stampede grounds.

After all, it's centralized, and public transit is already in place -- unlike in Edmonton, where team owners are looking at building a new downtown home for the Oilers.

"It works there," King said. "There are suburban options, but it works really well there."

Certainly a hot-button subject will be the cost.

It's a question nobody can answer now, in big part because of Alberta's booming economy. Construction costs have gone through the roof, and it's anyone's best guess where they'll be in three, four, five years from now. Maybe something pegged at $300 million today -- the soon-to-be unveiled Prudential Center in New Jersey has a US$350 million price tag -- will be in the $400-million range. Or, maybe it'll stay the same.

Of course, the question is paying for such a project.

King said the Flames owners "have ideas" regarding financing but wouldn't divulge any of them.

How much the provincial government would chip in, if any at all, is anybody's guess. But with both Edmonton and Calgary hankering for a new home, rest assured anything done for one would have to be duplicated for the other.

At this point, King said they don't have a set-in-stone idea what a new building would look like. Ideally, it would be roughly the same size in terms of capacity -- 19,000-plus -- and be more functional for hosting other events, especially concerts.

Certainly, those designing the next home of the Flames have plenty of new and relatively new buildings to consider, including the monolithic American Airlines Center in Dallas (everything's bigger in Texas), the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota, the jobing.com Arena in Phoenix, and the brand new Sprint Center in Kansas City.

"We have two or three ideas and concepts we're working on," King said.

Naturally, there are those who wonder why the Flames can't just do reno work in the 'Dome -- a valid question.

King said their study found that option not really feasible.

"You never know what there will be with technology and different ideas," King said. "But it doesn't seem, right now, the way to go."

That begs the question, what would happen to the Saddledome?

When it opened in 1983, it was considered to be state-of-the-art. Having gone through 24 years, a handful of name changes and a massive renovation back in 1995, it's now seemingly antiquated by today's standards.

With a new building, the venerable old 'Dome would likely be "decommissioned," King said. "You can't have two buildings economically viable at that size."

That said, the Stampede board or city may want to keep it standing for other uses. But it's hardly cost-effective to keep the 'Dome in place, especially with the Corral still in use a parking lot away.

Sure, it works in Philadelphia where the AHL Phantoms call the Spectrum home, but the newer Wachovia Center has two major tenants in the NHL's Flyers and NBA's 76ers.


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