Work continues behind the scenes to revive a deal between the City of Calgary and the Calgary Flames ownership to build a replacement for the aging Saddledome.
Members of the city’s event centre committee heard Monday that the third-party group brought on to help restart negotiations has made some headway, and has had discussions with the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp. (CSEC).
According to Stuart Dalgleish, the city’s general manager of planning and development, those conversations are working towards a potential path forward on a new agreement “that would work for both parties.”
However, there have not been any formal negotiations between both sides.
“The third party and the city are continuing conversations with CSEC,” Ward 1 councillor and committee chair Sonya Sharp said following the meeting.
“I’m very optimistic of where we’re at and where we’re going.”
The third-party group, dubbed the Event Centre Visioning Group (ECVG), is made up of three Calgary businessmen: John Fisher; CBRE executive vice-president; Guy Huntingford, NAIOP Calgary strategic director; and Phil Swift, Ayrshire Group executive chair.
The majority of Monday’s committee was a confidential update on the progress made by city administration and the ECVG so far, and officials didn’t share many specifics following the closed-door meeting.
“Work is progressing well. We have a lot that we need to do over the course of the summer months,” Dalgleish said.
According to city administration, that work includes researching recent arena projects, investigating financial models and working with city bureaucrats to “understand all requirements as relating to a new event centre.”
“They had a deal. It’s not like they need to rediscover what the model is,” Concordia University economics professor Moshe Lander told Global News. “They just need to dust off something that was there six months ago and just fix the numbers.”
The previous agreement between the City of Calgary and CSEC came to an end in December, after Flames ownership informed the city it would be pulling out due to more than $16 million in additional costs because of several climate resiliency and infrastructure conditions attached to the development permit by the Calgary Planning Commission.
That original deal to build a new event centre was struck in 2019 with a total cost of $550 million, but CSEC said costs had ballooned to around $640 million by December 2021.
Construction on the new facility was scheduled to begin earlier this year.
In January, city council voted unanimously to find a third party 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.
According to Sharp, the third party has only been in discussion with CSEC about the project.
Sharp told reporters that “time and speed” are her priorities throughout the process; which are priorities Mayor Jyoti Gondek said are shared.
“As long as we do this responsibly and in a way that all stakeholders are comfortable with how we’re going to move forward, we will get going as quickly as we can,” Gondek said in an interview with Global News Morning Calgary on Monday.
The next event centre committee meeting is scheduled in September. Sharp said she hopes for a more “solid” update from administration following the work that’s expected to take place over the summer.
“My optimism still grows, and I’m very hopeful this is going to be down the right path in the next couple of months,” Sharp said.
Global News reached out to CSEC for comment but did not receive a response.