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Behind the scenes at Webster Bank Arena

An arena’s worst nightmare


Inside the flooded Saddledome in Calgary, Canada.

Inside the flooded Saddledome in Calgary, Canada.

If you live in the Calgary, Canada area and have tickets to see Kiss, Rush, Bruno Mars, Selena Gomez or Carly Rae Jepson at the Saddledome arena, you’re most likely getting your money back. Those July and August shows are probably going to be cancelled, and there’s a good chance the rest of the summer and fall shows are going to be scrapped, too.
The arena is underwater.
A freakish storm a few days ago dumped immense amounts of rain on the Calgary area and swamped the arena. There is brown, filthy water up to the tenth row of the venue. The flooding caused three deaths, closed downtown Calgary and wrecked homes and businesses. In the scheme of things, a lost concert is inconsequential, but the Saddledome damage is shocking nonetheless.
Most of the reaction so far has been about the the upcoming Calgary Flames hockey season. The NHL and the Flames are vowing to work hard to get the arena ready for the scheduled opening night in early October.
What hasn’t been discussed is the slate of big concerts that appear to be lost. That’s upwards of 80,000 tickets that will have to be refunded. That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue for promoters, the arena, stagehands, agents and musicians. So much time and effort is spent booking big concerts like this and it’s all gone in just a few hours.
Talking with the production crew here at Webster Bank Arena makes the scope of the problem clear. The water has most likely destroyed much of the Saddledome’s electronics and power supply. All the concourse-level concession stands are most likely wrecked. Kitchens and offices have been damaged. Floors will be buckled. The Flame’s president called the damage a “total loss.”
Fortunately, Webster Bank Arena has never experienced this kind of disaster. We get a few leaks here and there during heavy rains storms and we once had an exterior water main break caused our bathrooms to stop functioning a few hours before an event. The three-foot snowfall this past winter made some of us a little nervous, especially those of us who remember the 1978 collapse of the old Hartford Civic Center.
The live music business can be cutthroat, but you can assume there will be an effort to reschedule or relocate those concerts.
Webster Bank Arena and arenas nationwide hope the Saddledome recovers.

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