Calgarians love lambasting the Pengrowth Saddledome — usually after they’ve just been there.
There’s always talk about building a new and bigger arena, because if there’s anything Calgary knows it’s building bigger and better things.
Normally, I’d never condone replacing a perfectly good stadium; the problem, of course, is the Saddledome isn’t perfectly good.
This occurred to me a couple weeks ago when it seemed like all my friends were at the Lady Gaga concert … in Edmonton. It’s long been rumoured that the Saddledome’s low-hanging roof has kept artists like Justin Timberlake away.
Of course, in recent years the Rolling Stones and U2 have both played the Saddledome, which seemingly throws water on that idea. On the other hand (and speaking of water), when a venue’s acoustics make an artist sound as though they’re performing under the sea, it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.
The Saddledome is in desperate need of a makeover. It’s an arena where the term “nosebleed seats” is meant literally. And while you’re up there be sure to bring your binoculars: Watching hockey from the arena’s 300 level is like watching a highly choreographed game of ping-pong.
In fact, I’m starting to wonder if the Saddledome has something to do with our hockey team’s recent inability to find any success during the playoffs.
After some extensive Googling, I’ve discovered that two football teams call McMahon Stadium home. (I also uncovered something called the Calgary Vipers, but I’ll save that for another column.) Both the Stampeders and the U of C Dinos have enjoyed a fruitful last 12 months: The Dinos were a second-half collapse away from winning Canada’s university football championship, while the Stamps are running away with the CFL’s overall standings.
Given McMahon Stadium’s recent track record, it’s no wonder the Flames have arranged to play this year’s Winter Classic there — it’s a sure bet for two points, right?
Assuming our next mayor Ric McIver reads this column and decides to push for a new arena, might I humbly make a suggestion?
Whatever they’ve done to the beer, keep doing it. Sure, paying $7 for a plastic cup of beer is tough to swallow, but this apparently extra-strength beer is one of the few things that makes the Saddledome my favourite place to forget how I got home. Otherwise, its cramped concourses, undersized washrooms and awful sightlines should be banished to Calgary’s history books.