Calgary city council approves committee to hit reset button on arena talks

Click to play video: 'City committee aims to restart talks on new arena' City committee aims to restart talks on new arena
WATCH ABOVE: The City of Calgary is hoping to kickstart talks for a new arena months after the Calgary Flames walked away from the negotiating table. Blake Lough reports – May 29, 2018

A Calgary city councillor is hoping to press the “reset” button on talks for a new arena in Calgary.

After a 12-1 vote in favour, city council is striking an “event centre assessment committee” consisting of city councillors, the mayor, and members of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation and Calgary Economic Development, and aims to refocus the vision of a new event centre/arena in the city.

The committee’s first meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 19.

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

“Before we talk deals, before we talk locations, really kind of figure out where do we want to go,” Councillor Jeff Davison, who brought the motion for a new committee to council, told Gord Gillies Monday morning on 770 CHQR. “Step back a second here and really look at where we want to be, where we see a need for an arena, what type of area do we see this in, and really put together a vision from the city’s perspective.”

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LISTEN: Calgary councillor Jeff Davison joins Gord Gillies to discuss his notice of motion for a new committee to ‘reaffirm its commitment’ to a new event centre

Last fall, talks fell apart between the city and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, the owners of the Calgary Flames, over the cost, scope, and location of the building that would replace the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Davison hopes the reset allows the proposed committee to look at the best location for the project, not just previously proposed locations like CalgaryNEXT in the West Village.

“I think what you’re going to see here, the councillors that will probably get appointed to this committee, they’re not going to have a vested interest in where the facility goes, because it’s not, frankly, going to go into any of our own wards. So I think we can look open to that.”

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During council discussion, Mayor Naheed Nenshi expressed concern over the committee re-opening the file on the previously proposed West Village location.

“We spent millions of dollars on the analysis of the West Village and determined it was really a non-starter for so many reasons. And if this committee spends the next six months going through the points on the West Village again, I think that would be a big failure.”

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Davison told 770 CHQR that investments in transit could help the case for the new event centre to go into the East Village/Victoria Park area.

“From the city’s perspective, we have a $4.5-billion new asset going in there called the Green Line. We are entertaining this entertainment district coverage, we’re trying to tie in things with BMO, with the national music centre, with the new library — it’s really the completion of that area. There’s a very compelling case that the East Village is really where we should be. But that said, this committee should be open to the idea that maybe something else does work better.”

Davison says he’s also putting the fan experience into consideration.

“My background is also in marketing, so I really look at it in terms of, if I were the Flames, I would look at it in terms of ‘Where do I want the familiarity to lie for my season ticket holders?’ so the area makes sense.”

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The Flames’ ownership group previously stated that it was done negotiating with the city on a new arena, but Davison hopes this renewed committee and approach will bring them back to the table.

“I think it’s really incumbent on us to put together a vision and probably approach them first. I would hope that the move we make today encourages them to come to the table and say we’re at least open to talking. That’s really the expectation right now, and we’ll treat them as any stakeholder as we move through the process.”

In the 12-1 vote in favour of striking this new assessment committee, only Councillor Druh Farrell voted against the motion.

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