Proposal for new Calgary arena heats up, heads to council on Monday
The City of Calgary and the Calgary Flames are close to reaching a deal on a new arena.
A proposal for a new event centre will go before city council members on Monday, Global News has learned.
Should it be built, the facility would serve as the centrepiece for so-called Rivers District, located where the Bow and Elbow rivers meet.
Ward 1 Councillor and Events Centre Committee vice chair Ward Sutherland says details on the negotiation will be presented to council after 14 months of negotiations.
“This is very complex. It’s really about the Rivers District, and it’s a multi-party deal – if it does happen,” Ward said. “What we’re doing on Monday is giving an update to council on how the talks have gone.”
The proposal for a new events centre includes several stakeholders such as the Calgary Stampede, Calgary Flames, CMLC and the City of Calgary.
CMLC had previously said the construction of a new event centre and the BMO Centre expansion would cost about $500 million each, but would bring in up to $2 billion in private investment.
The proposal for a new events centre comes at the same time that Calgary council is attempting to cut $60 million from this year’s operating budget. Council members are set to discuss those potential cuts next week.
“We need to reduce our expenditures and operating, but we also need to invest in the future, you need to do both,” Ward said. “As we are approaching this budget, we are cutting operating — which is a smart thing to do – and we need to look at investments that are going to give us a return.”
“It’s quite obvious from the plan of the Rivers District that we’re going to get a massive return from it, between the BMO [Centre expansion] and the event centre – if it does occur – It’s a huge catalyst for hundreds of millions of dollars of private industry coming in and investing in the Rivers District,” he added.
“The Rivers District needs to happen. When we look at the entertainment and cultural district, we’ve needed this for years and it will create a gathering place, and public benefit.”
The proposal for a new event centre going to council on Monday would outline a potential deal with all parties, but it would still have to be ratified by city council — a vote would likely take place at the end of July.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he looks forward to continuing conversations about a new event centre.
“Council passed a motion some months ago which very clearly said that should any deal be made, it has to meet all these principles, the first of which is any public money must have public benefit,” Nenshi said. “I am hopeful there will be some stuff to talk about with the public on Monday.”
When asked about the optics of city council potentially approving a new arena deal the same week that council members will debate gutting its operating budget, Nenshi said it’s something they’ll have to deal with “should it actually happen.”
“We did say a while ago there were four projects that had to be done. We approved those four projects and we identified funding sources for those four projects,” Ward 12 Councillor Shane Keating explained.
“It is maybe difficult for some to comprehend the difference between capital costs and operating costs … But if you’re trying to find results in operating costs it doesn’t affect any capital project.”
Keating said the public will learn details of the new proposal if council members accept the terms.
Speaking to Danielle Smith on Global News 770 CHQR on Friday, Ward 8 Councillor Evan Woolley said he thought most Calgarians know that the city needs a new arena.
“The important part of the discussion is should public money go to an arena,” Woolley said. “And if the answer is ‘yes,’ then what is the public benefit to that? And what [is the amount] that we’re talking about?”
LISTEN: Councillor Evan Woolley joins Danielle Smith to discuss Calgary’s arena talks
“I think it’s particularly difficult, when at the same council meeting next week we’re talking about significant reductions to police, fire, transit,” he admitted.
“When we talk about giving potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to one business in the context of all of these other things that are happening in the city, in our incredibly stressed finances, we need to be pretty thoughtful about that.”
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