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Brett Wilson slams Calgary mayor and council for ‘dawdling’ on new arena

WATCH: Brett Wilson spoke in favour of a new arena while appearing on Global News Morning in Calgary on Tuesday, criticizing how long discussions have dragged on.

Calgary businessman and entrepreneur Brett Wilson is slamming Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and city councillors for not working faster to build a new arena.

Wilson is a minority owner of the Nashville Predators and joined Global News on Tuesday to discuss the team’s playoff run and the so-called “Smashville” spirit.

“The big fun thing was who’s going to perform inside – but also, who’s going to perform outside,” he said. “This sort of stuff brings communities together – and that’s really why I share some of this, with the envy that Calgary could be that, if we weren’t dawdling.”

READ MORE: Calgary pursues ‘Victoria Park option’ for new arena: ‘This needs to happen sooner than later’

“To have dragged as it has, shows a lack of vision and leadership,” he said. “The arena in Nashville was built by the mayor, hoping to attract an NHL hockey team. We have a mayor and council in this case, dragging this whole conversation for years – at the risk of losing.”

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“I’m not saying the [Calgary] Flames are planning to leave – that’s not the case at all – but we’re losing the environment, we’re losing the sprit, we’re losing the community, we’re losing all of the things that could be.”
“You watch Nashville, and people say ‘how did Nashville do that’ – well they did it because they cared, and that was really community leadership coming together with the ownership of the [Predators] – and guess what? The players, the fans, the celebrities – everybody came together.”

READ MORE: New vision for Victoria Park in downtown Calgary revealed

Mayor Naheed Nenshi disagreed with Wilson’s comments and said the city isn’t delaying anything.

“They [city council] are meeting weekly, spending hours and dollars…tons of money on analyzing the proposals,” Nenshi said. “It’s really up to the two sides to determine timing and how badly they want to deal.”

In April, Calgary city council voted to continue working on the proposed Victoria Park arena option with Calgary Sports and Entertainment.

President and CEO of Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation Butch Spyridon helped bring the arena and NHL franchise to Nashville. Spyridon said cities have to invest in themselves.

“That was one of those things we kept saying. You’re either growing or dying,” Spyridon said. “There’s no better time than during a recession, because you’re investing in yourself and helping navigate out of a recession…….Not only are you going to put citizens to work, but you’re going to have great savings on the cost.”

After his experience in Nashville during the Predators playoff ride, Spyridon said you can’t put a price on an outlet that brings an entire city together.

“Seeing young, old, male, female, black, white, rich, poor — all sitting together outside the building — cheering, having fun, high fiving, bonding as a community,” Spyridon said.

A survey from Mainstreet Research released in May suggested 50 per cent of Calgarians believe the city needs a new arena. It also found 60 per cent of respondents would support the City of Calgary if it decided to support construction of a new arena by providing land or using savings that would not impact their taxes.

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READ MORE: Calgary Flames’ Brian Burke wants taxpayer dollars to help with new arena

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