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Fresh faces on Calgary’s city council try to reignite new Flames’ arena conversation

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WATCH: A few new Calgary councillors are kick-starting the new arena conversation once again. As Lisa MacGregor reports, they're looking to start a committee with a "fresh perspective" to get everyone back at the table – Apr 23, 2018

A new arena deal for Calgary might not be dead. A few new Calgary city councillors fuelled the conversation once again this past week.

New faces like Ward 6 Coun. Jeff Davison is getting the new Calgary arena ball rolling again with a committee.

“It’s just about establishing a new committee and how we move forward. We have some new councillors, a fresh perspective and I think part of what we have to look at here is what went wrong the last time.”

Davison wouldn’t elaborate on “what” he thinks went wrong in new arena talks, he just wants to see everyone back at the table.

Talks broke down last fall between the city and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, the owners of the Calgary Flames.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi has said the Flames’ proposal for a $500-million arena places a heavy tax burden on the city, but the Flames say the city’s plan would ultimately see the team foot the entire cost of construction.

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READ MORE: Arena not on agenda as Gary Bettman heads to Calgary

A committee to start the conversation once again will be formed, according to Davison, with or without Nenshi.

“The mayor’s office is going to be well aware of what we are looking to accomplish whether or not they’re involved in the negotiation team. With three councillors on-board, we should have that well in hand,” Davison said.

Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu was blunt in his response about whether Nenshi should be on the committee, saying it would hurt negotiations.

“It’s very clear that Mayor Nenshi does not support the events centre,” Chu said. “You just can’t negotiate in public. At that time, I supported the “one-third one-third one-third [dividing arena costs]. As of right now, I think it’s important to move it forward and have the conversation going.”

READ MORE: Calgary Flames release details of their new arena funding plan

Nenshi supports councillors wanting to inject fresh blood into the new arena conversation but isn’t sure there’s a point to a separate committee.

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“The thing I worry about is that to date, there haven’t been any politicians at the negotiating table. The negotiating table has been professional negotiators and all of the councillors ultimately make the decision and set the mandate. So if this goal is to only make three members of council set the mandate, I don’t think council will go for that. If it is that, it all has to come back to council anyway, I’m not sure what the point of this committee is,” Nenshi said.

READ MORE: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi points to ‘errors of omission’ in Flames’ arena proposal

Nenshi thinks the pressure from Calgarians, fielding councillors with phone calls about the arena deal talks stalling, has led to them feeling like they need to do something.

“I remind you as well that the city is still at the table and we’ve been at the table this entire time and the other party needs to indicate they’re willing to come to the table. And if they are willing to come to the table, if they’re dealing with new faces, sure, that’s a good thing,” Nenshi said.

Meanwhile, just last week, developers released their new vision of Calgary’s Rivers District, which includes Victoria Park and it still has an arena in the plans.

Davison says the city hasn’t talked to Calgary Flames’ representatives just yet about getting back to the conversation on a new arena.

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“It’s really taking the first step as a council to see if the will is there, I believe the will is there. The next step would be to move forward with the Flames,” Davison said.

In a statement to Global News about the new city council committee, the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation said, “Based on what has transpired to date, we have no basis on which to believe anything has changed with respect to a new arena. If the reports are true, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the city decides to do.”

Who will be on the new arena committee and how many people, is still to be determined. Davison anticipates more city councillors on it, along with Calgary’s Municipal Land Corporation.

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