The Saddledome was opened in 1983 and was a host venue to the 1988 Olympic Winter
Games in Calgary, but to look at this venue from the outside one would think it is one of
the newer showcases - bright, modern, and an architectural design which is distinctive and
unique as far as the buildings we have seen. As the name indicates, the roof of the
building is shaped like a saddle, with the highest points of the building located not in the
center, but at the edges.
This arena is located in Stampede Park on the fringes of downtown Calgary, which is also
home to the world famous Calgary Stampede. Right next door is the Corral, a 7200 seat
hockey arena which for two seasons was the first home of the Flames in Calgary. We
toured this building and found it to be very shabby and in great disrepair, but the old
exhibits and photos in the concourse were some thing to be truly marveled! The complex
has ample parking and is also served by a light rail rapid transit station. Unfortunately the
trains weren't running on this weekend due to a transit strike!
The Saddledome underwent significant renovations in the mid 90's and the result shows!
The building is beautiful - multiple concourses which are incredibly wide and spacious
along the sidelines, several restaurants and bars located in various parts of the building,
an Air Canada Club concourse at ground level, and a terrific array of exhibits throughout
the concourses displaying the construction of the arena, the '88 Winter Olympic Games,
Alberta inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the Flames run for the Stanley Cup just
to name a few.
This is a beautiful arena bowl with an attractive coordinated color scheme of medium
green, medium blue and wine red seats. The lower level only goes some 18 rows up, so the
first few rows in the balcony are really the prime seats in the building. A ring of suites lines
the top of the lower level along the sidelines and skyboxes hang from the top of the arena.
The scoreboard is 8 sided, with 4 panels bearing Jumbotron video boards and the other 4
dot matrix panels and stationary ad panels. The balcony is surrounded with stationary ad
panels and message boards. Lastly, above the skysuites are backlit canopy ad panels
hanging high above the arena.
Another thing we want to point out is the scaffolding and catwalks under the roof of the
arena. In most places this sort of thing is an afterthought, an evil necessity that is just
there and hopefully not too noticable. At the Saddledome, the gangplanks and pipes are
painted blue and red to match the seat colors, and actually blend into the bowl's aesthetics
quite nicely. Very well done!
The pregame show here doesn't touch the extravaganza in Edmonton, but they do have
something truly unique here - suspended high above each blue line is a white box. Each
time the Flames score a goal a huge burst of flames lights up the sky above the ice. Really
"That Good Ole' Hockey Game". Cool song, right? We do it in Buffalo, but nothing like here
in Calgary. They put this song on during a media timeout in the 3rd period, to the video
accompaniment of great Canada Cup and Canada Olympic hockey moments. Everyone was
singing - EVERYBODY. And clapping, too! As usual, the timeout wasn't long enough for the
song to finish. That was too bad. These Calgary fans deserved to give themselves a big
round of applause!
A wide variety of national chains, including Tim Hortons, and a varied menu selection
makes this a good place to go if one is hungry. There is no "team store" but there are two
huge merchandise sale areas in the two sideline concourses. We did mention the number
of restuarants and bars in the building, and on the terrace level above each sideline
concourse were full service bars overlooking the main concourse and views to the
Their one Stanley Cup banner is accompanied by their various division and conference
titles, along with one retired number, that being Lanny McDonald. A banner hung in 2000
says "Fans #1", probably to honor the faithful in coming through for a season ticket drive
to keep the team here. Normally we HATE these things, but I guess some accommodations
can be allowed in this case. Hey Minnesota! You guys also have a banner claiming that Wild
fans are "#1"! We guess you guys are gonna have to arm wrestle or have a bikini contest
or something to settle this issue.
When our journey is complete, our trip to Alberta will most likely stand out as one of the
extraordinary ones... the folks in Edmonton and Calgary were warm and hospitable, the
cities were beautiful, like a piece of Texas in Canada, and the hockey experiences were
outstanding. We promised everyone a return visit should our Sabres compete in the
Stanley Cup finals against one of these teams... the way things have been going, it may be
Edmonton in this year's finals, riding a 30 game winning streak that began in February!!!
Food and team store 6
Scopreboard and electronics 5
Fan support 10
Location and neighborhood 6
Banners and history 8
In game entertainment 9
Concourses/fan comfort 5
Bonus: suspended flame boxes in air 3; Calgary Corral next door 2
St. Louis Blues