Flooding causes 'shocking' damage to Saddledome

The Scotiabank Saddledome in downtown Calgary on June 21, 2013. Stuart Dryden/QMI Agency

The Scotiabank Saddledome in downtown Calgary on June 21, 2013. Stuart Dryden/QMI Agency

Eric Francis, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:38 PM ET

CALGARY - From Superdogs, superstars, streakers and several Stanley Cup finals, Calgarians have seen just about everything at the Saddledome over the years.

But nothing can compare to the scene there Friday when floodwater from the Bow River filled the 30-year-old stadium to the 10th row.

“It’s shocking what we are looking at,” said Libby Raines, VP Building Operations for the Calgary Flames.

“You’re eyeballing it but there’s a lot of water and it’s up to the 8th, 9th or tenth row. However, from the last report it doesn’t appear it has risen at all since then.”

Indeed that means the rink, the ice plant and a few thousand seats are submerged by the shocking overflow that swept over Stampede Park and the downtown core.

It also means the dressing rooms, the Jumbotron nerve centre, the Ed Whalen Lounge and the Hot Stove Lounge are all likely destroyed, as well. Plenty of history will likely be ruined too, including a massive championship team photo from 1989 signed by most team members that hangs outside the Flames dressing room.

“We do have someone who has checked the building several times and obviously there’s a lot of water,” said Raines who is getting regular updates all day long from head of security Bob Godun.

“I think you can say we expect there to be extensive damage.”

Godun is the only man who has gained access to the rink since Friday’s storm surge hit as Flames employees were all told to stay away from work. No pictures from inside the 19,200-seat venue are available as of yet, making it impossible to assess any of the damage.

That said it’s hard to believe any of the star-studded Stampede concerts scheduled to kick off July 10 will go ahead as planned.

“I think until we have a chance to go in and do some assessment we can’t speak to that,” said Raines, when asked if she thought shows by the likes of Tim McGraw, The Dixie Chicks, KISS or Rush will be rescheduled or cancelled.

Raines said the Flames main office appeared safe from the floodwater as of 1 p.m. Friday and said her last few updates indicated the floodwater in the rink has leveled off and wasn’t rising past the noon hour.

Stunning photos of water rushing down the service dock and into the Dome had some questioning whether the Flames could have done anything to try blocking the entrance, which is well-below street level.


The Scotiabank Saddledome in downtown Calgary on June 21, 2013. Stuart Dryden/QMI Agency

“Certainly we were in touch with the city and knew there was significant water coming this way but I think everyone is shocked,” said Raines, echoing the sentiments of a city.

“We took some measures we could but with this volume of water…”

With the Flames, Hitmen and Roughnecks all finished for the year the heavily-used building was actually in the midst of its quietest period. That said, the Watchtower Convention was cancelled for this weekend.

The Dome is owned by the city but operated by the Flames as part of a lease agreement that ends in 2014.

In a strange twist the flooding makes the team’s quest for a new building an even more intriguing debate.

After years of watching the Oilers battle for public money to help build a new downtown rink the Flames are on the verge of announcing their well-developed plans for a new home.

And while the appetite to spend any public money on a new NHL rink was dampened by a recovering economy and a frustrating lockout it may make much more sense to kickstart the project publicly now given the millions of dollars in damage the Dome has surely sustained. 


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