Red Mile businesses, residents brace for Flames playoff party

Beltline representatives met with police on Thursday to discuss how crowds will be controlled during the Flames playoff run

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While Calgary Flames playoff revellers could get their elbows up in celebratory mayhem, those impacted by it say they’re confident it’ll prove a positive.

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Those representing Beltline businesses, residents and lawmakers met with the Calgary Police Service on Thursday to map out how possible 17th Avenue Red Mile chaos from a Stanley Cup run will be controlled, with some of those participants saying they’re ready to welcome the city.

“The police seem to have a lot of contingency plans,” said Geoff Granville, a board member with Beltline Neighbourhood Communities.

Granville said he came away from the meeting with the impression that if hockey partying spun out of control, city officials could re-impose a temporary court injunction aimed at taming marchers protesting COVID-19 measures that was lifted earlier this week.

“There was a good talk about the injunction,” he said. “There could be unsavoury characters in the crowd, but I think we’re looking at this as a positive.”

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Granville and others said that, unlike the so-called freedom marchers who disrupted local businesses and residents’ routines every Saturday for months, Flames parties are generally welcomed after a long bout of relative pandemic quiet.

“We like to see 17th Avenue full of people and businesses busy,” said Peter Oliver, president of Beltline Neighbourhood Communities.

“It’s about people coming down and being respectful of the people who live here. It’s not the strip in Las Vegas, there’s a residential community here.”

He said a bigger concern among residents is gratuitous vehicle noise and stunting that could increase with playoff crowds.

“We don’t want to sound like we’re discouraging people from coming down here, but save your car tricks for your cul de sac,” said Oliver.

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Police wouldn’t comment Friday on their plans for Red Mile crowd control, adding they’ll speak publicly about it Tuesday.

But Granville said they include lane closures and mounted patrols utilized as the circumstances demand.

Local businesses, particularly restaurants and bars, are looking forward to the influx of customers when the NHL playoffs begin Monday, said Ernie Tsu, owner of Trolley 5 Community Brewpub and president of the Alberta Hospitality Association.

“There’s always been concerns about people getting out of hand and we’ll have to see how the first games pan out,” said Tsu.

“But this is needed by everybody, it’s a shot in the arm for the city. Every fighting chance restaurants can get to get out of the (pandemic) hole is needed right now.”

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He acknowledged there’s some talk about fans burned by previous brief Flames playoff runs staying away from the bars and will only descend en masse when the team enters later rounds.

But Tsu said he’s confident his industry will see a longer-term benefit.

“I think the Flames are going to blow through the first round,” he said, adding he’s confident a police presence will keep the Red Mile running reasonably smoothly.

After topping the NHL’s Pacific Division, the Flames have home-ice advantage for the first two playoff rounds.

Businesses and residents’ groups also say a free admittance fan zone to be set up on the Stampede grounds with giant video screens — the Red Lot Community Viewing Party — will increase after-game crowd sizes on 17th Avenue S.W. by attracting up to 5,000 people a game.

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“This could be the biggest group we’ve ever had,” said Granville.

Some 17th Avenue retailers said even though the bars and restaurants will benefit the most from a Flames run, they’re happy to see the street and city invigorated.

“Everyone understands the hospitality industry has been brutalized over the past two years, so if there’s any good news, I’m happy for them,” said Greg Stebbe, owner of Walls Alive.

The possibility of some fan mayhem is worth seeing some positive energy in the area, said home accessories store owner Jennifer Leblond.

“A lot of folks here feel positive, there’s been so much of the negative lately,” she said of Steeling Home.

“I have faith in our police being a strong presence and making it work.”

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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