Calgary Municipal Land Corporation not at event centre negotiating table

An artist's rendering of a new arena in Calgary. City of Calgary

An update on negotiations for moving forward with the event centre is coming to Calgary city council on Monday.

Originally scheduled to break ground in August, work on the new home for the Calgary Flames was paused in April because of “difference in the current budget estimate and the program requirements for the facility,” a Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) statement said at the time.

Read more: Work paused on new Calgary arena over estimate, program requirements concerns

In its annual general meeting with city councillors, CMLC said it was not at the negotiating table with Calgary Sports and Entertainment and the City of Calgary.

“We’re supporting both our contributing partners with any ask that they need at the table, but we’re not currently at the negotiating table,” CMLC president and CEO Kate Thompson told council.

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In April, sources told Global News that there was a desire to remove CMLC as a project manager for the $550-million arena.

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Mayor Naheed Nenshi said CMLC’s role in the project precludes them from being part of the negotiations.

“It would be inappropriate for them to be there because they’re the development managers,” Nenshi said Tuesday. “They have to work for both parties and so they can’t be negotiating on the basis of one party or the other, as far as I’m concerned.”

Click to play video: 'Work on new Calgary arena paused amid concerns over cost estimate, program requirements'
Work on new Calgary arena paused amid concerns over cost estimate, program requirements

CMLC chair of the board Randy Magnussen said the city opted to have its own team at the negotiating table.

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“I think what happened was there was a need to reduce the number of people involved in the discussions and the shareholder (the City of Calgary) made a decision that they would employ certain people in administration to do that,” Magnussen said.

Read more: Calgary sets timelines, announces design, construction firms for new event centre

“There are certain things we would like to be involved in, but overall at this point in time, the discussion is involving things CMLC wouldn’t be a part of.”

Nenshi said there’s “a lot on the table” in the negotiations, pointing to inflationary pressures building and infrastructure projects around the world are facing.

“It more broadly has to do with how do we manage cost? What do we do about overruns and so on going forward? It’s all in the mix,” he said.

But the mayor disagreed that the Calgary Flames ownership group was opposed to having CMLC involved in the event centre, noting that the original agreement with CSEC had the city-owned subsidiary act as development manager on the project.

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Thompson said that despite not owning many parcels in the Rivers District, CMLC has an important role to see the district’s plan to completion.

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“I think as the authors and the oversight of the Rivers District master plan, it’s incumbent upon us to have a strong voice at the table to actually deliver what we said this district needs to be,” the CMLC CEO said.

“If we end up with islands of projects without a cohesive view to what happens in the district, I think we won’t have been successful.”

Given the delays over cost concerns, Nenshi said an Aug. 1 sod-turning is unlikely. But he’s hopeful both the city and CSEC will find a way past this latest barrier.

Read more: Calgary breaks ground on $500M convention centre expansion in Stampede Park

“I certainly hope that a resolution can be had,” the mayor said. “I think council made a decision that they want to move forward with this project, so my job and administration’s job is to find a way to move forward.”

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