Calgary’s new event centre deal by the numbers

An artist's rendering of the new Calgary event centre and Rivers District. On April 25, 2023, the city announced a deal in principle with the Calgary Flames ownership group and the Alberta government. handout / City of Calgary

An agreement in principle for a new event centre and development in Calgary’s Rivers District is expected to cost $1.22 billion, with funds coming from the city, the province and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC).

Here’s how the numbers break down.

The city will be putting up $537.3 million, or 44 per cent, to the project. The Flames ownership group is responsible for $356 million. The provincial government will be funding up to $330 million.

The Calgary Stampede will contribute with a land swap.

The project includes a replacement for the Saddledome, a community rink, an enclosed plaza, public realm improvements, attached parking, and improvements to transportation, infrastructure and the district.

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Those estimated costs look like this:

  • Event centre: $800 million
  • Community rink: $52.8 million
  • Attached parking: $35.4 million
  • Public realm: $28.7 million
  • Enclosed plaza: $9.5 million
  • Improvements to transportation, infrastructure and the district: $238.4 million
  • Other costs: $58.5 million

At $800 million, the city-owned event centre would be more expensive than the $634 million of the previous deal CSEC backed out of in December 2021.

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Calgary Saddledome replacement: Mayor announces deal reached to proceed with new arena

“What you’re seeing right now is the cost of moving forward with this new event centre and the area,” Coun. Sonya Sharp, who chairs the city’s event centre committee said.

The past deal saw a 50-50 split between the city and CSEC for arena costs, with the Flames ownership covering costs above an agreed-upon escalation amount.

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The public and private investments for the new deal in principle will go to different parts of the Rivers District project.

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The city’s $537.3 million will go to the event centre, parking structure, enclosed plaza and one quarter of the community rink’s costs.

Sharp said the funds from the previous deal which fell apart at the end of 2021 are going to the new deal, with supplementation from the city’s so-called rainy day fund.

“No added taxes to (city) taxpayers – that’s the question, there’s the answer,” she said.

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‘Let’s get it done’: Danielle Smith optimistic for new arena replacing Calgary Saddledome

CSEC is putting $40 million up front and $17 million per year with a 1 per cent increase each year over 35 years. Those funds will offset event centre costs, parking, the enclosed plaza and a quarter of the community rink. A release from the city said that represents more than $750 million over the 35-year term.

The Flames owners are also responsible for $1.5 million per year for community sports, a $52.5 million contribution over the term.

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The Government of Alberta committed to a maximum of $330 million.

Premier Danielle Smith said the province’s contributions will go towards roads, bridges, LRT and other infrastructure for the area in three annual tranches totalling $300 million. The remaining $30 million in provincial commitment will go towards paying for the remaining half of the community rink.

Battle of Alberta funding

Smith said there was a gap in capital funding in the last provincial budget favouring Edmonton over Calgary.

The premier said despite the call from the city to invest in Calgary’s downtown core that saw billions in lost property value and hundreds of millions in lost property taxes, “we felt that this would be the absolute best way to do it because it is investing in public infrastructure, it’s helping to build out an entire district… it is really going to do an amazing job of revitalizing this part of downtown.”

Smith said she was unaware of requests for provincial dollars for the Rogers Place negotiations ahead of that arena’s September 2016 opening.

“It was a different group of players, different place, different time, different agreement.”

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Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi disputed the premier’s memory of the events.

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“When we built Rogers Place and the surrounding development, we asked the province for support and we were told we were not going to get any support,” Sohi said at a separate press conference, noting he is happy for Calgarians.

“We would love to sit down with the province to seek support equitable to Calgary that we were not given when we built Rogers Place arena and entertainment district.”

Smith said the province is open to helping Edmonton Oilers ownership group with a phase 2 of the ICE District.

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Ice District takes shape

“They do need to have some assistance with infrastructure, as well there’s a Boyle Street facility that is going to be moved, and so there’s a few things that we can do to assist Edmonton,” Smith said.

Sohi noted it’s not about any sense of commitment between the Albertan cities.

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“It’s more about collaboration. It’s more about making sure Edmonton is getting equitable treatment, that we’re getting fair treatment from the provincial government,” Edmonton’s mayor said. “So we’re happy for Calgary and I hope the provincial government will pay attention to Edmonton’s needs as well when it comes to being a world-class city being able to attract international events.”

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