Following a marathon meeting behind closed doors on Tuesday, city councillors will be diving back into arena discussions at a special meeting of council on Monday.
City councillors are expected to vote on the city’s terms before entering negotiations with the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC); the organization that owns the Flames, Stampeders, Hitmen, and Roughnecks.
Council voted seven to six on Tuesday to postpone the discussions to get more clarification on some questions that were raised in the closed-door meeting, as well as provide more information to the interim city manager.
“Tuesday was just about questions, specifically our concerns to councillors, because we need to develop a basic framework to even proceed,” Ward 1 Councillor Ward Sutherland said. “We’ve done our due diligence, in fact, we put together a large package for councillors to go through again that answers a lot of the questions.”
Tuesday’s marathon meeting saw councillors discussing a draft of negotiation terms for the new events centre.
Details still remain scarce on the terms that were discussed, but council believes they have a price tag for a new arena: $600 million. Officials also said the city would provide a financial contribution to the project that wouldn’t affect property taxes.
Sutherland told Global News that he would like to see progress made during Monday’s special meeting.
“We need to make a decision to move forward, or not move forward, but the decision has to be made,” he said. “We’ve taken all the steps in our work plan and now the step is to decide the financial framework and then move forward.”
The special committee was formed last spring to take the reins on restarting negotations with the CSEC.
The committee is chaired by Ward 6 Councillor Jeff Davison.
However, the committee is facing some criticism for its private negotiations and reluctance to share details being discussed when it comes to an arena proposal.
“I’ve been talking with Calgarians and the one thing I’ve heard over and over again is when it comes to using tax dollars to run a professional business, like the Flames, they don’t like being left in the dark,” Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Franco Terrazzano, said to Global News earlier this week.
“Calgarians want consultation.”
Sutherland is calling for patience as council works through the details of their negotiation terms and framework.
“Once, and hopefully, a deal will occur, then, of course, it’s going to be public at that time,” Sutherland said. “But to do it beforehand, that’s how you get deals not done anywhere; nobody does negotiations in public, it doesn’t work, it’s that simple.”
This latest attempt by the city to ramp up negotiations with the Flames over a new arena is the third attempt in the last four years.
When asked why this attempt is different from the other negotiations, like when talks fell apart in 2017, Sutherland said there is more of an overall plan in place.
Sutherland points to the Rivers District, an area being developed by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation. The events centre and the expansion of BMO Centre to attract larger conventions are considered to be the anchors of the project.
“I think there’s significant differences,” he said. “We have an agreement on a vision, and the Flames organization agrees with the Rivers District, we now have approval of the BMO expansion, so all those types of buildings that are going to happen are going to bring in a lot of private investment; so we have to look at the project overall.”
Councillors are expected to be behind closed doors for quite some time on Monday.The meeting begins at 9:30 a.m.