City could soon approach Calgary Flames on new arena proposal

A conceptual design of a potential new arena in Calgary. Courtesy: Calgary Municipal Land Corporation

If a proposal outline is approved, it will be a big step in jump starting serious talks with the Calgary Flames about a new arena.

City council’s event centre committee spent a good part of Wednesday afternoon going over a term sheet for a $600 million facility negotiation. It will be presented to city council on Monday.

Calgary Municipal Land Corporation is developing an area called the Rivers District. The event centre and the expansion of BMO Centre to attract larger conventions are considered to be the anchors of the project.

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President Michael Brown said there’s an economic benefit in moving forward.

“The events centre will pay itself back in terms of the benefit that it will bring to our community in a better than a one-to-one ratio,” he told members of the committee.

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“The role of the entertainment district and this project in its entirety is a game-changing project for all of Calgary — not just for the centre city.”

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After the meeting, Brown told reporters the events centre is critical to enticing the private sector to invest in the area.

“If you don’t have that catalyst, you’re not going to attract that investment. You will one day, but the timeline — instead of looking at 10 to 15 years, you would be looking at 30 to 40 years in terms of the build out,” he said.

Coun. Jeff Davison, chair of the committee, said something could be presented to the Flames quickly.

“If council approves the draft term sheet and endorses that as the principles and fundamentals behind the negotiation, I think you would see that conversation start quite quickly,” he said.

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The previous negotiations with the Flames were characterized as “spectacularly unproductive” by Ken King, chair of Calgary Sports and Entertainment — but Davison said there’s a difference this time.

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“It’s really about the vision. We’re really not talking about the idea of a single-use hockey arena,” Davison said. “Nobody’s interested in kicking a facility 400 yards up the road. It’s really about what is bigger than what we’re trying to establish here, what’s the grand vision.”

Davison said a source of funding for the city portion has been identified and it won’t impact the property tax rate.

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Meanwhile, Coun. Jeromy Farkas is holding a town hall regarding the proposed centre on Thursday night, but many councilors are asking “why now?”

Coun. George Chahal said he is happy to have open communication with the public, but there isn’t enough information to share with Calgarians yet.

“I still think there’s a lot of work to do before we can have those discussions with the public with the facts in place,” he said.

Coun. Ward Sutherland questioned why the focus is on the event centre.

“Why didn’t we have an open house for the BMO expansion? That’s $500 million and it’s going to generate $300 million a year of outside business, but we didn’t have an open house for that,” he said.


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