Calgary’s new event centre committee held its inaugural meeting Monday to chart a course for the work it’s been tasked with over the coming months.
The meeting, held mostly behind closed doors, saw Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp appointed as committee chair and a meeting schedule approved.
Sharp, Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott and Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean were the representatives from city council chosen after the committee’s formation was unanimously approved after a lengthy closed door council meeting last month.
Brad Parry, president of Calgary Economic Development, and Deborah Yedlin, president of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, were also selected to sit on committee as citizen members and Yedlin was elected to serve as vice-chair on Monday.
“The goal is to have an event centre,” Sharp told reporters following the meeting. “It’s not if, it’s when, and this committee is really to make sure it oversees the work of administration and that we get the job done.”
The committee is scheduled to meet once every month through to October, but how much information about what happens in those meetings to be shared with Calgarians remains unclear.
Sharp said their goal is to be transparent with citizens on the progress of the work that’s underway.
“We need to make sure that there is transparency with this,” Sharp said. “Not to say that there wasn’t before, but this is a different time with this project.
“We need to make sure that we’re keeping that trust and confidence with our partners, the citizens and the rest of the business community, and transparency is key to that.”
According to Sharp, the committee will not be “negotiating any sort of deals,” but rather overseeing administration and the work of the third party organization, which will be undertaking that work.
The committee was created after the collapse of the original project with the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) prior to construction.
The committee is also being tasked with building on the work already undertaken by the event centre assessment committee. That committee, chaired by then-Ward 6 councillor 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.
“We’re committed to ensuring that we get this right for the city,” Walcott said. “That’s really at the core of our mandate here: that we provide something that is of high value to the city and that’s something that all of us share in common.”
The previous deal with CSEC came to a close near the end of December 2021 with the corporation citing rising costs as a key issue to not move forward.
In January, city council voted unanimously voted to find a third party to begin talks again with CSEC. Though the third party has yet to be announced, its job will be to gauge CSEC’s interest to come back to the drawing board, along with seeking other parties who may want to be involved with the project.
A report released in summer 2021 pegged the project at $608.5 million, which forced both Flames ownership and the city back to the table to make adjustments to the agreement.
The costs jumped again after the Calgary Planning Commission added several climate resiliency and infrastructure conditions as a normal part of the approval process for the building’s development permit, which totaled around $16 million.
The City of Calgary offered up $6.4 million to assist with the added costs, but Flames ownership notified Mayor Jyoti Gondek just before Christmas that the organization was pulling out of the agreement.
Construction was slated to begin on the project in early 2022.
–with files from Jessika Guse, Global News