At least 1 city councillor plans to reject Calgary arena deal

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At least one city councillor plans to reject Calgary arena deal
WATCH: Calgarians have until the end of the business day Monday to give feedback on the proposed event centre deal. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, at least one councillor plans to reject the deal, saying the city has more important ways to spend $275 million – Jul 28, 2019

Calgarians now have an extra three days to weigh in on the arena deal.

At first, public input was going to be cut off on Friday at noon. Now, public submissions are being accepted until the end of the business day on Monday. 

Coun. Jeromy Farkas was pushing for more time to look at the deal but now he says he’s voting against it. He said money would be better spent on many other city projects that wouldn’t carry flooding risk.

“There is a lot of uncertainty still around flood mitigation. That is a huge issue for me and a concern for me that it would eat away at our potential returns and potentially be a huge liability going forward,” said Farkas on Sunday.

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In a weekend Facebook post, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the event centre won’t lead to new development by itself but it will help some of that development get built quicker in Victoria Park.

“The deal also has direct financial return to citizens through the collection of a facility fee and a portion of naming rights,” Nenshi said in the post.

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“This doesn’t mean it’s an economic windfall for the city but it does mean we can quantify the real cost of our investment: something many other cities don’t do. As I’ve always said, public money must result in public benefit and I think this deal accomplishes that.”

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The Calgary Chamber of Commerce insists the event centre will bring investment jobs and development into the city.

“When you look at the shared costs of this kind of infrastructure, if the city were to pay for all of this on their own, it would be a much bigger number,” said chamber board chair Phil Roberts on Sunday.

“They have a willing partner in the Calgary Entertainment and Sports Corporation to invest as well bringing down the cost for the city and they are going to own this asset for many years to come.”

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt worries there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the land options the Flames will benefit from in Victoria Park.

“This looks like a real gift for Calgary Sports and Entertainment [Corporation],” Bratt said.

He said City of Calgary claims of $400 million in projected returns are misleading. Bratt said Nenshi is in a tricky spot because of his forceful opposition to an arena deal two years ago.

“It’s almost like fatigue — that [city councillors] are tired of negotiating with the Flames and they’re saying, ‘Just get this done as quick as possible and put on a big positive spin,'” Bratt said.
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“To my mind, there is no great economic benefit to the rink project.”

But even those opposing the deal acknowledge the many non-economic benefits to a new arena, like bringing the community together and uniting people.

City councillors are expected to vote on the project on Tuesday. It was originally scheduled for Monday.

On July 22, the City of Calgary and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation — the ownership group behind the Calgary Flames — announced a deal that would see the two groups equally split the cost of a $550 million new arena that would replace the Scotiabank Saddledome.

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