46
Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Breaking down Calgary’s arena saga with Field of Schemes author Neil deMause

It’s probably safe to say that things are getting a bit tense in the Calgary marketplace as the saga regarding the potential new home for the Calgary Flames drags on. A couple times in the past few months, we’ve had a Flames executive ponder relocation only to walk the claim back immediately afterwards. As we’ve detailed around here, the whole process has been quite exhausting.

Endless arena and stadium skirmishes between teams and governments is old hat to Neil deMause. Since 1998, deMause has examined public subsidies to large sporting facilities at his website, Field of Schemes. He and colleague Joanna Cagan also produced an extensive book on the subject, an updated edition being published in 2008.

We chatted with deMause earlier this week via phone to discuss the never-ending story that is the Flames’ arena project.

What are your overall thoughts on the Calgary arena saga so far?

Calgary’s situation is fairly typical in some ways, in that you have a team with an arena that the owners decided is obsolete or not state of the art or whatever else, and they would like a new one (like a lot of their competitors have) and would like not to pay for it (like a lot of their competitors don’t). And have gone through the typical several cycles of going back to the public to try to say, “Okay, how about we get money this way, how about we get money that way?”

It’s typical in that realm. I think what’s been atypical is that Mayor Nenshi has been an atypical kind of opponent across the bargaining table in that most city mayors will be somewhere on the spectrum of, “I don’t want to break the bank but what can we do for you?” Whereas Mayor Nenshi is one of a few mayors, not unique by any means, but a few mayors around the U.S. and Canada who are coming back with, “Well, show how this benefits me and my city in any way and sure we can talk.

One thing that I’ve noticed looking at the coverage around the proposal is that Mayor Nenshi and City Council went from an initial stance of, “No, we don’t have the money,” to more recently saying that public funds have to be used for public benefit. Instead of leaving the door wide open to giving money or locking it shut, they’re leaving it slightly ajar and putting the onus on the Flames to justify opening it.

I think you’re seeing more and more of this, a little bit. Tom Tait in Anaheim did that when the Angels said, “We want a whole lot of money for renovations of our stadium.” I think it was development rights to their parking lot that they were going to be able to sell.  The city council initially said sure, fine, whatever; Mayor Tait said, “Well, I don’t know, how much are development rights worth? Let’s do an assessment.” And [Angels owner] Arte Moreno kind of flipped out a little bit. And the assessment came back and it was going into the value of the development rights was I think around 50% more than the renovations he wanted to do. And so that died and now I think they’ve backed off. There was some brief talk of, “Oh, we’ll move to another town somewhere else in Southern California,” and then that didn’t happen. Now I think everybody’s sort of dropped the idea of doing substantial renovations there.

A couple others. I think Seattle City Council has done a pretty good job of that since the Mariners and Seahawks stadiums happened there. All of the negotiations around the Sonics, all of the negotiations around building a new arena to try to and maybe bring back a basketball or hockey team. There’s been more of a, “Well, the public may have a role but it has to be something that works from the public’s perspective, not just helping you with what you want.” Again, it’s still not the main way that public officials tend to respond to these things and there’s lots of wiggle room within that in how you define “working for the public” and getting a public benefit, but that said it’s a lot healthier than just going in with “well, our team is demanding a new building, how do we help them and how much?”

We’ve been knee-deep in the arena news from either side here for several years. I’m curious how the Flames’ tactics come across from outside of the local fishbowl.

The Flames execs don’t seem to have a master plan in the way that you might expect, but again that’s fairly typical. In Chapter Four of our book, we go over the different items in the playbook that owners use and it kinda usually does end up being throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks. First you say, “Oh, this would be a wonderful economic benefit to the city!” and if that works, great. If people say, “Well actually economists say that it won’t…” then you circle back around and say, “But you don’t want to see the team move or you don’t want to see the team not have the money it needs to compete in games.”

You just keep circling around and using whatever argument you think you haven’t used in awhile and seeing if that works and hoping you eventually land on one that will.

When did they start pushing for the new Flames arena?

The Saddledome flooded in 2013 and so that’s when they really started pushing for it, and it was August 2015 when they unveiled NEXT.

That’s pretty early in the life of typical stadium or arena demands. Again, some of them go really quickly, but if you look at something like the Sacramento Kings or Minnesota with the Vikings and the Twins, or the Florida Marlins, they can easily drag on for a decade.

And the thing that team owners know is they only have to win once. They can make nine straight years of failed arguments and get their heads handed to them in the council or legislature, as long as they have one win where they get it passed then they’re set.

Obviously you’d rather do that in the first year than the 10th year, but if you’ve got a long enough game-plan then that’s fine because you get your cash. It’s better to get $400 million in subsidies 10 years down the road than to pay for it all yourself the first year.

What we’re seeing in terms of inconsistency and not staying on message, some of that may just be incompetence – and I never want to assume that anybody in any kind of position of corporate or political power is incompetent and doesn’t know what they’re doing anymore than the rest of us do – but that said, some of it is strategic. Some of it is just like, “Okay, that didn’t work, what’s next?”

It seems there’s a lot of noise around the periphery of the arena project. The economy’s getting better, slowly. Calgary’s working on an Olympic bid. There’s a big LRT project. There’s the arena. In particular between the Olympic bid and the potential scaling back of the NEXT mega-project to the Victoria Park proposal, there seems to be an opportunity for City Council to have public money involved and not look terrible in the process.

Absolutely, and I think that’s a lot of what’s going on, you get a couple months of silence and then you’ll get a couple months of agitation again from the Flames. Like any negotiation people are trying to jockey for position in terms of how much they can demand. There’s a price point at which the Flames could go to the mayor right now and say, “Give us X amount of dollars, but it’s not very much,” and everybody would say okay fine, great and shake hands and do it. There are probably a lot of price points in between there and what the Flames would like, so the idea is how long do you hold out and how badly do you want the new place? How badly do you want, are you just out to get the public cash to subsidize it?

I don’t think anyone’s done an economic analysis on how this would pencil out for the Flames in terms of how much more they would get in revenues, because that’s always the issue; yeah, a new place would be nice, but is it going to pay for itself if you’re trying to earn it back in revenues. It’s rare, which is one of the reasons you see so few stadiums and arenas built with totally private money. The other is the public money is there to be had, so why not ask for it? But I think it’s undeniable that if governments were not funding these things, a lot fewer new stadiums would be built (or arenas). Not none by any means, but it would be more like one every couple of years instead of several new ones opening a year like it is now.

I think because I’m both optimistic and pessimistic, as a person, I’m confident that a deal gets done here and that public money’s involved. In terms of what happens next, will the devil be in the details? I’m thinking of things like Pittsburgh’s bond deal with their arena that ended up costing a whole lot more than originally thought and things of that nature.

I think you really have to look closely at the financial details and make sure that everything, not just in terms of the construction split but also how the lease works out, is worked out in advance, because we’re seeing more and more cases where the headline number (in terms of they get this much money in public subsidies) is dwarfed by the amount of hidden costs. Judith Grant Long, who’s a researcher at the University of Michigan, did a book a few years ago where she broke down the full costs and found that the average hidden cost, things in terms of tax kickbacks and maintenance and operations expenses that are on the public and things like that, all of that came to about 40% over and above what the actual public cost was of construction, and that number’s going up.

So you have things like the Atlanta Falcons, where originally the governor (I believe it was) proposed $300 million in subsidies towards (nobody knew it would be at the time) a $1-plus billion stadium. And then there was criticism of that, so they went, “Okay, okay, why don’t we do $200 million?” $200 million of a place that cost a billion and a half? That doesn’t seem so bad, until somebody looked at the fine print and realized okay, this tax they created is going to generate $200 million towards construction costs, but then it’s going to keep generating money and that money is going to go into this waterfall fund and that’s going to create this huge slush fund for them to spend on whatever they want for upgrades to the stadium. The ultimate public cost towards the stadium and upgrades for it later is going to be like $600 million.

That’s the kind of thing that you really want to avoid, is huge, huge costs on the back end. You want to make sure that maintenance/operations are paid for, at least substantially, by the team. You want to make sure that there’s an iron-clad lease that does not allow them to use one of these state-of-the-art clauses 15-20 years down the road and go, “Oh, this place isn’t shiny anymore, you have to build us a new one or we’re going to leave,” like what happened with the St. Louis Rams. There are a lot of dangers there, and again, I think anybody who’s been following this and has read some leases should be able to watch out for the pitfalls.

Hopefully, if this deal happens, whoever Calgary has on their side negotiating will either research it themselves or hire some people who have worked with other cities or whatever, so that they’re not getting their heads handed to them when they’re negotiating a lease. Again, that’s just stuff you want to watch out for.

And I certainly hope that everybody can come together and come to an agreement on something that whatever level of public involvement it is, it’s something you can at least justify; maybe the city won’t make money on it, maybe it’ll lose some money on it, but at least it won’t be a disaster, it won’t be a huge money pit.

But a lot of that is going to come down to what the Flames owners decided, because it clearly won’t be whatever they’re proposing right now. I don’t think it’ll be resolved anytime soon is my bet. Clearly, both sides have gone to their corners and have their own positions on this and I don’t necessarily see them coming together quickly. I could be wrong, I would hope they would, but it doesn’t seem like it’s progressing that way when you see the most recent statements where they say, “Calgary NEXT isn’t dead, even though nobody’s interested in it other than us.

The other thing you didn’t ask me, but I don’t see the Flames moving because I don’t think there are any good markets that are better than Calgary.

If the NHL has spent this much time and energy keeping a team in Glendale, it’s hard to see the Flames leaving Calgary…

And in any case, there just aren’t any better markets. Quebec’s an okay market, but Quebec is not necessarily a better market and you’d have to sell the team to Quebecor, at least part of it, in order to do that. What else, Seattle? It’s an okay market, but it’s not like the Rams moving to Los Angeles where you’re thinking, “Okay, geez, we’re not risking anything because we know we’re going into a market where we’re supposed at least as well as St. Louis did.” I think that the city in Calgary’s case has a fair amount of leverage here because it’s not like there’s other options. The same sort of thing Tom Tait took advantage in Anaheim knowing they were in a really good situation, and I wish New York City had taken advantage of when the Yankees were demanding a new stadium. What are you gonna do, go to Charlotte? The entire value of your franchise is wrapped up in the fact that you’re in a city of eight million people and a metro area of 20 million people and you can sell cable rights based on that. No possible way you’re going to leave, “Take whatever we’re offering to you and get out of my office.” But that isn’t what happened, unfortunately.

A lot of people in the small world of stadium finance watching are looking very closely to Calgary as an example of what happens when the city side really tries to drive a hard bargain.

I think it’ll be very interesting to watch. I don’t know if every mayor in North American will be looking to it as an example, but I think a couple will be here and there, so I hope whatever gets worked out is a good model for the future.


More from FlamesNation:

Defining public benefit in an arena context A look at the never-ending Calgary arena saga
Two years in, and still no critical thought of the new arena project The arena war of words makes everyone look bad
What went wrong with CalgaryNEXT? The city says CalgaryNEXT isn’t feasible in present form or location
Thinking critically about CalgaryNEXT: What’s a CRL? How to think critically about CalgaryNext

  • Puckhead

    Can we please stop bludgeoning this topic? It has not been dragging on for years and years and is not a saga.

    The Saddledome is fine for the foreseeable future and will eventually be replaced.

    • Scary Gary

      CalgaryNEXT was introduced in 2015, which would constitute multiple years and it will take a number of years to get sorted (Edmonton took approximately seven years). This topic interests me and others, you can choose not to read it.

        • Then please don’t clutter comment sections of articles you don’t read and aren’t interested in.

          In addition, arena deal articles stand as some of the most read and shared posts in the history of FlamesNation. The implications of the arena deal stretch far beyond the typical confines of Flames fandom to issues like municipal development and the principles of local governance. So we will continue to write on this topic.

          • supra steve

            Honestly? If there is worry among the FN staff about clutter in the comment section, there are ways to go about reducing it. Puckhead’s opinion is a valid as yours or mine.

          • PrairieStew

            @supra steve. FN probably monitors article hits and number of comments to determine future content; so if Puckhead would rather not see articles like this – he should refrain from commenting, because all he is doing is driving the metrics up.

          • Agreed and I personally enjoy reading them. Out of curiosity, has anyone contributed an article to FN that is pro-arena? I’m just curious about the argument there. Outside of social media, virtually everything I’ve read on the topic tends to conclude that it’s a poor use of public funds. While I agree with this, I’m always curious about the full spectrum.

          • Ari Yanover

            @ Foolish Grin – it’s not that anyone here is anti-arena, it’s more that we’ve taken the approach that “billionaires begging for public funds is unideal”. It’s difficult to present a more “pro-arena” sort of opinion when one party – CSEC – seems to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into something that’s not their ill-conceived dream. I suspect (or at least, hope) things will look different whenever the Vic Park plan is announced/approved.

          • Puckhead

            Christian, there is no more point to my comment then writing an article about nothing. Once a proposal is brought to the table it would be great to read and talk about it. These articles make me think about sitting in a pointless meeting where people talk but it doesn’t amount to anything.

            And the arena articles are usually trolled a lot which probably explains the viewership spike

  • Backburner

    Great article! Although I’m not completely against the use of public money here, I think there could be a good case here for timing with the Olympic bid, and the revitalisation of Stampede Park, which is in public interest.

    As far as the Flames piggy-backing on the new field house project as a place for the Stamps to play, I think that’s a fair suggestion too, as long as they are willing to pay for some of the costs involved for both the field house and the arena.

    I think renovations to either the Saddle dome or McMahon are obsolete at this point. The money would be better spent elsewhere.

    • piscera.infada

      I’m not sure I agree with the field house project-Stampeders partnership. If the argument as to why the city needs a field house is to contribute meaningfully to the development and accessibility of amateur sport in the city (which I completely agree with, by the way), then how does a central anchor tenant not detract from that goal?

      I don’t mean to heap scorn on you individually (Rob Kerr went on a ludicrous tirade about this about a month ago), but it bothers me to no end that because CSEC lumped these two issues together, they are now (seemingly) forever conflated within the popular discussion. A field house (if not multiple field houses) is a very important discussion that this city should have–I’m also of the mind, for the record, that the Stamps need need a new home–but let’s not pretend that the two “piggy-backing” on one another doesn’t detract from the utility of the first (and more “public”-centred) objective. If the city is going to (rightly, in my opinion) put significant tax-payer money into a field house, that public utility should be the foremost goal.

      • Backburner

        I agree, those kind of partnerships don’t usually work; I just think that if there is a possibility that the field house would also be used for events such as International Soccer or track and field events, maybe the Stamps could use that facility if they were willing to chip in for the cost of construction.

        • piscera.infada

          Now, I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but to have a reasonable and clear discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of that, it needs to be divorced from from a Flames arena discussion.

  • Newbietwo

    This is Calgary! This is Alberta and hockey sits at the core of our Western and first world views.. this is what happens when you have leadership that clashes with that

    • freethe flames

      If we really followed what many people profess to be as Albertan’s then the Flames would not expect a penny from taxpayers afterall are we not the home of capitalism and capitalists are supposed to need government involvement.

  • Great job on this. I’ve been following deMause for a few years now, so I’m glad he’s finally been able to comment on the Flames project.

    In terms of comparable markets, Toronto and/or southern Ontario could probably handle two or three teams, but given the veto by the Leafs and no suitable arena at this time, yes, the league has few options to move the Flames.

    I wish deMause could have offered a model for a municipality to go through. I get that different jurisdictions have different governance and taxation models, but in general, would a wise investment by a city be at least to build the sufficient transportation and utility infrastructure to service the arena, along with zoning changes and whatnot? Roads aren’t an insignificant cost, but in that sense, you could see the public benefit in having traffic flowing smooth before and after events, etc.

    • piscera.infada

      I think investment in infrastructure is more or less a given though. I can’t see a realistic proposition wherein the city would see that as wholly unpalatable–except in a case like CalgaryNEXT where the necessary infrastructure improvements were so great as to put the entire project’s feasibility in question. These are however, contributions that needs to be acknowledged from a fiscal perspective by the CSEC, because success of the project is contingent upon them.

      I have said numerous times that saying “no public funding, at all” isn’t really realistic–deMause appears to agree, as I think most level-headed commentors here do as well. The question “what is the public benefit?” is entirely reasonable, but “public benefit” needs to be clearly defined in terms of tangible “benefit”. I think my biggest take away from the above article is the following portion:

      That’s the kind of thing that you really want to avoid, is huge, huge costs on the back end. You want to make sure that maintenance/operations are paid for, at least substantially, by the team. You want to make sure that there’s an iron-clad lease that does not allow them to use one of these state-of-the-art clauses 15-20 years down the road and go, “Oh, this place isn’t shiny anymore, you have to build us a new one or we’re going to leave,” like what happened with the St. Louis Rams.

      A responsible (that being the operative word here) amount of public money up-front is an entirely reasonable ask. But those overruns, back-end costs, as well as sticking points like (not-enough discussed) “city-owned asset” issue is where the real hurt towards the taxpayers manifests. As deMause muses:

      There’s a price point at which the Flames could go to the mayor right now and say, “Give us X amount of dollars, but it’s not very much,” and everybody would say okay fine, great and shake hands and do it.

  • nikkomsgb

    The only part of this that is tired and annoying is Nenshi being praised as some sort of champion of the people. He is a brilliant mind, but also extremely abrasive, confrontational and egotistical. He picks fights with neighbouring municipalities, council, the media and business people all the time. In this instance he seems to have some sort of bone to pick with the Flames, who themselves have been pretty incompetent throughout.

    That said, I don’t have a problem with him trying to drive a hard bargain… he would have to after the deal Edmonton city council got stuck with. However enough with all the belly aching on both sides. Lets see a Vic park proposal with numbers attached. Everyone can then make their arguments and then it can get voted on by council (that is their job).

    The other, possibly bigger issue is the Flames, in my opinion, took a calculated risk and lost. They have been pushing for an arena for over a decade, but instead of leading the charge it seems they wanted Edmonton to do the heavy lifting. They get a deal (provincial money) and Calgary gets the same. Instead, Edmonton’s arena subsidies almost exclusively come via the municipality….and now Calgary is left to start from scratch. Figures they immediately looked to West Village, because that way they could argue for a CRL, which I don’t think is possible in Victoria Park (because the East Village CRL encompasses Stampede grounds).

  • buts

    Puckhead you really are a _uckhead. Great article and I love reading about this subject. I want NEXT because we need the creosote cleaned up and I believe its a win win for all sportsfans and atheletes who need a fieldhouse.

    • Puckhead

      You obviously have no idea what cleaning up a large creosote contaminated site with a high groundwater table next to a major river entails (e.g., you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed). Calgary Next was a ridiculous proposal. Any person with an inkling of sense would know that.

  • Waittillnextyear

    as long as Rob Ford , I mean Brian Burke , is in the picture shooting his mouth off this will definitely drag on . His words are coming from above too. What a circus.

  • PrairieStew

    There are different levels of public money. General taxes subsidizing the arena is not, for the most part, in the public interest. A community revitalization levy targeted at the area around the project, acts as a user fee for businesses nearby that would benefit most from the project. This approach was taken in Edmonton and is working well. The downtown arena has fired up downtown construction in Edmonton like never before. A ticket tax could also generate several hundred million over 30 years and although it might be considered public money – it is an optional tax paid for by the users.
    I’m disappointed that the West Village cleanup and redevelopment that the City must eventually do has been shuffled off to put the project basically back where the Saddledome is. Good luck trying to sell a Community revitalization levy there, why would they pay more to keep the arena nearby ? So that also means if there is public money, it will come from general taxation, so Grandma in Bowness will pay for an event centre she might not use, rather than the new offices/ businesses that could result from the West village development. ( How is that public benefit Nenshi ?)
    Building the arena in Victoria Park/Stampede also probably means destruction of the Saddledome, which to me is a waste of an asset. Edmonton is not doing that – even though Northlands is older – they are looking at options for repurposing the building. Several ice sheets, indoor Track and Field facility, soccer, Cycling and all manner of proposals and partners are being considered.

    • piscera.infada

      A community revitalization levy targeted at the area around the project, acts as a user fee for businesses nearby that would benefit most from the project. This approach was taken in Edmonton and is working well. The downtown arena has fired up downtown construction in Edmonton like never before.

      I don’t disagree in theory, however the use of the CRL has several practical issues. It’s premised off an assumption that increased property-tax revenue within only the CRL boundaries will be sufficient to pay off the initial loan provided by the CRL in longer than the mandated 20-year period. It can work in principle, but it often doesn’t (see Eau Claire as one of many examples). Applied to a development like CalgaryNEXT, how does this work when a significant portion (maybe 30 to 40 percent) of the revitalized “zone” is eaten up by one city-owned (in this case) development? You’re essentially assuming that the remaining 70% (or whatever) of the entire area will be able to re-coup that loan.

      If you get past those issues, you’re pulling consumers from an already ‘lively’ (for lack of a better term) area. It’s important to remember that in any city, there are a finite number of consumers. A CRL assumes that the revitalized area will otherwise become the new “place to be”. It might well do that, but it’s not necessarily the case. This was the issue with Eau Claire–it just never materialized that way, consumers stayed on 17th, Stephen Ave, and the like. Now, you could make the argument that the arena fuels where the “place to be” is, but that’s not entirely certain, and that goes doubly for potential residential developments in the area. In this vein, it’s far too early to tell if Edmonton’s ICE District has actually succeeded with it’s CRL–these trends take to decades to materialize.

      • PrairieStew

        Not necessarily all of the loan. I think an argument can be made that the general tax roll benefits somewhat by having a high quality events centre. There is also the potential of a ticket tax. I’d be comfortable with 20% of the City portion coming from general taxes, 40% each from the CRL and ticket tax. I think that the West Village works well for the CRL because the area is pretty well defined. Victoria Park less so, because in part it is not neccesarily an area that needs to be revitalized.
        In (the) ICE district, one 35 storey tower has been constructed and is open. The 66 floor Stantec tower is under construction. Would these have been built without the arena – maybe, but maybe not. The north side of Edmonton’s downtown has long been lagging, and this has already significantly changed things. Commercial developments probably benefit more than residential ones and that’s what we are seeing so far in Edmonton.
        I understand your point of drawing people from one place to another, however despite the recent downturn, Calgary will continue to grow. Where the customers and business go is partly organic, but also is affected by planning and development. West Village remains a fairly significant piece of land that is very underutilized relative to the rest of the area along the river in the core where the Bow runs east west. The City only had about 600 thousand residents when the Saddledome opens. A west village development helps fill in an empty spot and combat sprawl while not concentrating everything in one spot ( Stampede Park)

  • Bob Cobb

    Rexall is available, I’m sure you could lease it till the arena in Seattle is ready. The Seattle Flames has a nice ring to it, Quebec Flames, or you could go home to Atlanta, that hot bed of hockey activity, there’s Nassau Coliseum, unless the Islanders move back, then the Barclays Centre would be open, lots of option. Not saying the Flames will leave, but one can dream….

  • Porridge Boy

    Everyone focuses on where would the Flames go. Seattle or Quebec City. Take a look at China. The women ‘s pro league is locating there and it was said China want mto promote winter sports for their upcoming Winter Olympics, not sure of the year. The Flames could sell their franchise or relocate to China for double market value and if the NHL allowed this to happen and someday they will i believe, the owners of that franchise in China would make hand over fist money. Im all for careful use of public money, but dont think we are not at risk of losing this team. I hope all parties can find a solution here soon. The Flames will be gone in 5 years if no building is on the near horizon. I hope im wrong

  • Hubcap1

    That was the first time I had seen or heard the BB comments from his mouth. I got 13 seconds in and WOW what an a$$. I should let it be known that I don’t, unlike many here, have any dislike for Burke. But, saying that the city should have just said thank you and gone ahead with the half baked Calgary Next scheme is utterly ridiculous.

  • Stu Cazz

    Ryan..If you think the “Flames executive do not have a master plan” I’m afraid you are misinformed. These executives are schooled by Murray Edwards who just stole Oilsand’s assets worth billions from a major Oil company at 30 cents/dollar. These guys are shrewed and well prepared as they should be. The entire Burke outburst yesterday was staged and a classic executive negotiations ploy intended to put more pressure on the City to close this deal sooner than later. In case you haven’t noticed our Mayor is not a Champion of sports facilities and our City council are not efficient at being prompt. The Burke outburst brought awareness and urgency at a critical stage of negotiations. Good on Murray Edwards and Nenshi to stand up and try to get the best deal possible for all parties. The intellectual will tell you this is not about tax payers giving dollars to billionaires but rather a shared approach on cost and revenues that will see benefits for all involved as well as the City and tax payers. Not all tax payers will use the new building, not all tax payers use the new Public Library, not all tax payers use bike lanes etc but it is all part of a City progressing.

  • Derzie

    In simple terms, Alberta is used to being wealthy and conservative (funnel most of that money to the rich). Calgary has had a string of yes-men at the helm as mayor over the years. For decades. So refreshing to see a mayor that asks ‘what’s in it for me’ on behalf of the people who aren’t wealthy and who are not devil-may-care spenders on anything hockey. Nay sayers intrepet it as anti-hockey or anti-Calgary. What it really is is pro-benefit. The Flames are of great value to the city and it’s people. Determining exactly what that value is is where the question lies. City hall has not said ‘no’, they’ve said ‘show us a business case along with your fancy drawings and show us a piece of the pie. I suspect the billionaire owners next tactic is to fire up the hockey fanatics and the wealthy enough to vote against Nenshi with the hopes of getting back to the yes-men mayors of old. I picture the Simpsons episode exchange between politician and business man: “That forest is protected land” (opens briefcase full of cash) “timberrr”

  • Theo4HoF

    The Flames are near the top of the nhl in terms of profits. They should focus on getting this team past the first round more than once a decade. Go ahead and leave, I’m sure we would get another team in a few years anyway. Maybe a team that’s good more often than sucks. Go back to America Burke. #FireBurke.

  • snotss

    so if Calgary is such a “market hot bed” then its ok for the flames to play in the oldest arena in the league and limit its revenue for years to come so they can continue play in a hot market…………..not going to happen…. wow

  • freethe flames

    Now that the Flames have moved their ECHL to Kansas City maybe they are test driving the building to see if there is a market place there that is better than Calgary. I really wish we would just let the city and the Flames continue the discussions without the threats being made. More importantly I would to see BT get some signings done and for someone to start the ball moving in regards to player movement prior to the expansion draft.

  • Fan the Flames

    For those that oppose city putting up money Like Mr Nenchi it will be important to remember if the Flames leave and the city tries to replace them in a few years with another franchise the city will need to pay the entire tab for a new state of the art facility I think it is much better to make the deal now.

  • Lucky 13

    Interesting read, thanks

    I don’t live in Calgary, however I feel it is imperative that the public be aware of the negotiations that take place between the City and the Flames.

    From what I’ve read the reason the mayor and council rejected the NEXT project was that the cost 1.8 Billion and taxpayers were going to dole out 2/3 of this projected cost.. not something I would have supported either.

    It appears to me that negotiations with the city for the proposal of plan B just north of the Saddledome has been going on for about a year now.

    Doesn’t anyone inform Burke of the progress, or is he truly acting out of spite? Sure it could be a threat or negotiation strategy on his part, but not a smart one.
    Insulting council and ticket holders is counterproductive.

    One thing is for sure, if a new city mayor /councillors are elected in the fall this whole process just took 10 steps back.

    It’s a lot more complicated than one can imagine and I’m sure the elected officials are likely going to get a deal done, it just needs to be one that is fiscally responsibile to be justified.

  • buts

    Hey _uckhead, your tired of arena articles yet now your an expert on creosote cleanup! Well my engineer friend quit commenting on articles on a new arena and my comments about getting the creosote cleaned up. While you and the mayor flap your lips, the creosote is leaking into the bow river. High water table or not yours and my tax dollars, next or not, will be used one day to clean up.

  • Matt

    The threat to move the Flames is one of the single most ridiculous comments ever made in the history of Canadian sports – let alone Calgary. This is a top 10 NHL market. If the Flames moved, 10 teams overnight would bid to be here, including the Senators. Maybe especially the Senators.

    The city has all the leverage because of this, and should use it fully. That’s good for the future of the Flames and all the city of Calgary, so nobody loses. I love the Flames, but I love my city more and, as a strong fiscal conservative, it’s insane for us to throw big government money when the Flames could easily build it themselves, and make money off it. They want none of the risk and all of the revenue. Why would we in Calgary do that, when we have the position of the market. That’s just makes no business sense.

    It’s time for the mayor and the city to use that leverage and put total pressure on the Flames to come up with a proposal that worthwhile, that’s a fully advancement to the community around the arena, that will be a huge revenue builder for all of Calgary, and not just a cash grab for the wealthy and corporate Welfare for the extreme rich. That, most importantly, the city has very little risk on. That’s just stupidity. I’m a Flames fanatic, but I’m a proud Calgarian and economic conservative first.