NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to Calgary business leaders on Monday and put his support behind the CalgaryNEXT project saying that the Saddledome has served the city well but there is no doubt the Flames need a new arena.

“In fact, the Scotia Saddledome right now is older than nine NHL franchises so there can be no doubt that CalgaryNEXT is needed by Calgary and that, for a variety of reasons, work needs to begin on it immediately,“ said Bettman.

Bettman made the remarks during his keynote speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce over the noon hour on Monday.

“Since my tenure, 29 of our 30 teams have played or are on their way to playing their home games in new or virtually new arenas. There’s only one box left on my arena checklist,” he said. “I’m having trouble understanding why there hasn’t been further progress on CalgaryNEXT.”

The Scotiabank Saddledome opened on October 19th 1983 and is older than all but four current Flames' players.

Flames brass unveiled plans for a new sports facility in August and Bettman says a new arena is good for the league, the team and the community.

“These facilities are anchoring urban change and progress all over North America,” said Bettman. “CalgaryNEXT, including a new arena for the Flames, will make Calgary a better place in which to do business. It attracts business, it supports business and is an economic engine.”

The plan is for the CalgaryNEXT facility to be built in the West Village and the arena and multi-sport fieldhouse will house the Flames, Stampeders, Roughnecks, Hitmen and Calgary Dinos.

Calgary has been unable to attract some major entertainment acts because there isn’t a venue that satisfies the production requirements so a new facility will be a welcome addition to the arts community as well.

Bettman says premier NHL events like the draft and all-star game won’t be coming to Calgary until a new arena is built.

“While I would dearly love to announce that we were bringing the draft here or the all-star game or some other event , it will be impossible to bring any of those activities to this great city before we take them to L.A. Live in Los Angeles, the Ice District just up the road or the project now under construction for the Redwings in Detroit and the list just keep growing. Please let’s be clear, this is not a threat, I am expressing the realities and I hope, are the interests of the Calgary Chamber,” he said.

The proposed budget for the CalgaryNEXT project is $890M if all the facilities are built at the same time but the cost could increase to about $1.2B if they are built separately.

“The cost is never going to lower than it is today and if it had already been begun and they were in the ground the cost would have been lower yet,” said Bettman. “The longer it takes, the harder the task becomes and I have no doubt about it, CalgaryNEXT needs to happen and as part of a broader project, the Flames need a new arena.”

Bettman also spoke about the state of the game and says it’s never been better.

“Our players have never been more skilled or faster or more professional. This is a sport, now, in which a very skilled player, the size of say a Johnny Gaudreau, can excel and become an All-star,” he said. “The ownership of our teams has never been stronger and there is no better example of great ownership than right here in Calgary.”

Bettman says he will attend the game against the Sharks on Monday night and will meet with Ken King on Tuesday to discuss how they can move the project forward.

For more information on the CalgaryNEXT project, click HERE.