Reports show concrete on Saddledome roof is crumbling

Part of the roof of Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome is falling apart. Literally.

Documents obtained by CBC News through Alberta’s Freedom of Information legislation show that pieces of concrete have fallen loose from the roof’s ring beam while other crumbling pieces have been removed to prevent them from falling.

Engineering firm Entuitive recommended that there be inspections each spring and fall to monitor any deteriorating conditions of the concrete which have been caused by annual freeze-thaw cycles.

In April 2021, the firm sent a letter to the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC)  — which operates the publicly owned building — advising that sections of loose concrete were removed.

But it also stated that “the condition of the concrete around the ring beam is worsening at an accelerated rate.”

Earlier this year, netting was installed around the ring beam to catch any pieces of concrete that “appeared to be imminently ready to fall.”

A picture in the engineering firm’s report shows a piece of concrete which was removed from the Saddledome’s ring beam. (Submitted by Entuitive)

Not a structural concern

Pictures in a 2018 report show what happens when concrete breaks free and falls from the roof beam.

Chunks of concrete fell onto a roof structure below which is over the Saddledome’s west steps. The heavy material punched a jagged hole in the structure. 

The engineering reports note the problems with the concrete on the ring beam are of a superficial nature and do not present a structural concern for the roof itself.

The City of Calgary refused requests for an interview on the subject.

However, a senior official who is familiar with the reports and the Saddledome told CBC News that there are no concerns about the stability of the roof or for public safety.

The official said a full remediation plan to stabilize the concrete is expected in coming months and a plan to fix the problem will be implemented.

As the work plan has not yet been presented, he said it isn’t known how long the work will take to complete or how much it might cost.

Concrete which fell from Saddledome’s ring beam punched a hole in the roof of the covering for the building’s west entrance. (Submitted by Entuitive)

Council needs information

The chair of city council’s event centre committee, Coun. Sonya Sharp, said she had not seen the engineering reports.

She said that council has been given high level briefings on the building’s condition but nothing detailed.

“I’m not an engineer and I will definitely admit that but to understand exactly from administration how secure and safe the building is for the general public is very important for council to understand,” said Sharp.

She plans to ask senior administration officials to reveal reports to council members and the public about the Saddledome’s condition.

Her committee is tasked with finding a way to build a new event centre for Calgary which would replace the Saddledome, which opened in 1983.

The NHL’s Calgary Flames have a lease with the city to operate the building until 2033.

The team’s ownership group, CSEC, is responsible for paying for the building’s upkeep although responsibility for any major repairs to the Saddledome rests with the City of Calgary.

City seeking new deal

A deal between the city and the owners of the Flames on a new building slated to cost more than $600 million fell apart last December when CSEC walked away from the agreement, citing rising costs.

Earlier in 2021, CSEC agreed to assume all excess costs in exchange for the city putting in $12.5 million more than the original agreement specified.

In May of this year, the city hired three officials from the commercial real estate sector to approach CSEC about the potential for restarting talks on a new arena.

No recommendations have been made yet on a potential path forward but city council has thrown its support behind the idea of building a new downtown arena which would replace the Saddledome.