Calgary city council strikes committee to oversee work on event centre project

Click to play video: 'Calgary city council creates committee to oversee work on event centre project'
Calgary city council creates committee to oversee work on event centre project
WATCH ABOVE: Calgary city council is pushing ahead to construct a new event centre to replace the aging Saddledome after the original deal fell through. As Adam MacVicar reports, city council is forming a committee to oversee the work. – Mar 8, 2022

Calgary’s city council has struck a committee tasked with overseeing progress on an event centre project just months after an agreement with Calgary Flames ownership collapsed prior to construction.

The creation of the committee comes after council spent hours behind closed doors on Tuesday morning.

In a unanimous vote, council agreed to appoint Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp, and her colleagues Dan McLean and Courtney Walcott to the committee. Councillors also agreed to appoint Deborah Yedlin from the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and Brad Parry from Calgary Economic Development as public members.

“I think it’s not if an event centre gets built, but when an event centre gets built,” Sharp told reporters. “The one thing I can guarantee with this committee is speed.”

Sharp said she’s hoping the committee holds its first meeting sometime in the next month.

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It comes after a unanimous vote by city council in January to find a third party to engage with Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) to gauge their interest in re-entering discussions to build an event centre, as well as seek third parties interested in partnering on the project.

According to a report to council on the matter, city administration “has engaged the services of, and is currently working with, a third party.”

However, the third party remained unnamed and any details were not made public on Tuesday.

“It will be public at some point, just not today,” Mayor Jyoti Gondek said.

According to the committee’s terms of reference, it will be tasked with reviewing information provided by city administration and the undisclosed third party regarding development of an event centre within a culture and entertainment district.

Click to play video: 'City council seeks 3rd party to ‘start fresh,’ find partners for Calgary Event Centre'
City council seeks 3rd party to ‘start fresh,’ find partners for Calgary Event Centre

The committee is also being tasked with building on work already undertaken by the Event Centre Assessment Committee. That committee, chaired by then-Ward 6 Coun. Jeff Davison, was formed in 2018 by the previous city council to develop a partnership framework, financial strategy and determine a location to build a new event centre.

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“The mandate is to build on the foundation that was created on the previous file and also to move forward in any way necessary,” Gondek said.

The agreement between the City of Calgary and CSEC to replace the aging Saddledome officially came to an end on Dec. 31, 2021 with just weeks to go until construction work was scheduled to begin.

CSEC said at the time that there was no viable path to complete the project due to rising costs, as well as concerns with the infrastructure and climate costs attached to the development permit by the Calgary Planning Commission.

At the time, CSEC said the Flames plan to stay and play at the Saddledome “for many years to come.”

Click to play video: 'Calgary city council discusses how event centre deal fell through'
Calgary city council discusses how event centre deal fell through

Gondek said she feels council is “in really good shape” and united in its commitment to build an event centre and entertainment and culture district in the Victoria Park area.

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“Not only in January did we come together unanimously as a council to say we need to move forward on seeing what an event centre looks like in an arts and culture district, entertainment district, if you will,” Gondek said. “Now, unanimously, we have appointed members to the committee that will oversee the work of administration and the third party.”

Walcott told reporters he sees his role on the committee in two parts: ensure the project is an anchor in the redevelopment in East Victoria Park and ensure public money is being used responsibly.

“The people that are going to be sitting within this space have to guarantee that whatever is being provided to the public and the bill that is being footed to pay for it, is something that everybody can see value in,” Walcott said.

CSEC did not respond to Global News’ request for comment.

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