Third party to determine if new partnership possible on cancelled Flames arena deal

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Published January 13, 2022 at 2:49 pm

Calgary’s city council has voted unanimously to see if it’s possible to breathe new life into the lifeless deal to build a new arena for the Calgary Flames.

The city and the Flames agreed on the arena deal more than two years ago and the initial estimate of $550 million was to be split between the two.

The cost estimate for the project had risen to $634 million. 

Calgary Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Flames, balked at additional costs for roadway and sidewalk infrastructure and climate mitigation, which included solar panels, that the city added to the project since July. It officially pulled the plug on the deal at the end of the year.

But council voted Wednesday night to ask a third party to look into whether or not Flames ownership is interested in revisiting a potential partnership to build a new event centre. The city will also investigate other potential partners to help build a new arena. 

A report on the findings is expected to return to council in March.

“It’s a new opportunity that unshackles us from the old arrangement,” Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said at a news conference Thursday. “It’s a brand new opportunity to get this right.”

There was no immediate response from Calgary Sports and Entertainment.

Gondek said a third party is a good way to move the project forward.

“From my own perspective, a third party allows any of the interested parties to have their perspectives known, their interests well represented, but it is a neutral party that recommends the best course forward,” she said.

Gondek said it’s too early to say if the previous deal will be brought back as a template if negotiations restart.

“It may be just bringing back that plan and moving forward with it. It may be something different,” she said. “The fact of the matter is we have the opportunity to look at this at the present time instead of being confined by an agreement we entered into originally in 2019.”

The Saddledome was built to host hockey and figure skating at the 1988 Winter Olympics and is one of the oldest arenas in the NHL. It has been home to the Calgary Flames since its construction in 1983.

Gondek said she’s hopeful there will be significant progress by the end of 2022 and that the economic downturn from the pandemic will have improved by then.

“I would hope that we are incredibly intentional about what the component parts of that entertainment district are,” she said. 

“I would tell Calgarians that they should be encouraged … that we are looking to build an event centre within an entertainment district and council as a whole is incredibly optimistic about what we can achieve together with our partners.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2022.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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