A trio of Calgary businessmen have been selected as the third party to help determine whether Calgary Flames ownership is interested in re-entering negotiations to resurrect an agreement to build a new event centre with the City of Calgary.
City officials announced on Wednesday that the third party is made up of three men with commercial real estate experience: CBRE executive vice president John Fisher, NAIOP Calgary director of strategic initiatives Guy Huntingford, and Phil Swift, executive chairman at Ayrshire Group.
According to Stuart Dalgleish, the City of Calgary’s general manager of planning and development, the group brings “considerable expertise” in commercial real estate as well as large developments.
“The third party is having discussions with both the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) and the City of Calgary with a view to determining whether there is interest in discussions towards a new event centre,” Dalgleish told reporters following Wednesday’s event centre committee meeting.
The update from administration came after the committee went into closed session for nearly two hours.
The third party has also been tasked with finding other parties interested in partnering on the event centre project. But administration said the group has only engaged with the city and Flames ownership so far.
City officials also said that there is no formal timeline or commitment in place to “establish interest in re-entering discussions to construct an event centre and what conditions might be required to do so.”
Construction was set to begin back in January on the more than $600 million event centre, but the agreement between the City of Calgary and CSEC to replace the aging Saddledome officially came to an end on Dec. 31, 2021.
Days earlier, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she was informed by CSEC that it would not be going forward with the project.
At the time, CSEC said that there was no viable path to complete the project due to rising costs, as well as concerns with infrastructure and climate costs attached to the development permit by the Calgary Planning Commission.
According to city administration, the third party will bring forward recommendations on a possible path forward after clarifying the “items and interests behind the terminated agreement and the current landscape” of the event centre project, following meetings with the city and CSEC.
“We had a hurdle that was building a relationship. So we’ve done that and we’re on our way,” event centre committee chair Sonya Sharp said. “Everybody wants an event centre built, so now we’re going to move forward with administration and with the third party — the event centre committee is working towards that goal.”
City officials said the third party is under a confidentiality agreement and will report back to city administration on progress, which will be brought to the committee for updates.
Sharp said her hope is to maintain transparency with the public throughout the process.
“With anything that comes publicly, we are going to make sure we can say what we can publicly,” the Ward 1 councillor said. “We also have to respect business and business owners that a lot that confidentiality has to remain.
“So we have to make sure that what we can say in the public is for the best interest of everybody, including Calgarians.”
The original deal to build a replacement for the aging Saddledome was struck in 2019 with a total cost of $550 million, but CSEC said costs had ballooned to around $640 million by December 2021.
The event centre committee was formed back in March following a unanimous vote by city council to find the third party.
The committee was also tasked with building on the work already completed by the city on the project.
The next event centre committee meeting is scheduled for July.