National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman is in town today, making his annual stop in Calgary to say a quick hello, check in on a thriving Canadian franchise with top 10 attendance, and throw gasoline on the tire fire that is the sprawling arena saga. However, the context has changed significantly since his previous visits in March and September of last year. Since we last saw the commissioner Seattle has struck an arena deal and begun what’s already been a tremendously successful season ticket drive for their prospective NHL expansion team; meanwhile, Calgary has continued to develop its pitch for the 2026 Winter Olympics.
Earlier this week, amidst the swirl of Seattle’s ticket drive and Canada’s successful performance at the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, we headed down to city hall to talk to Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi during a break in a city council meeting.
Have you heard from the Flames lately?
I ask because Seattle begins their season ticket drive this week and private money was a significant pusher in getting that deal done. Would the City be open to working with directly with a private entity other than the Flames on an arena?
Absolutely. We’re open to anything on this. And really what we’ve seen over the last several months as you well know, ’cause you know it better than I do, is that we have a deal in Seattle which is 100% private money, we’ve had a deal in Long Island which is 100% private money, and we’ve had the owner of the Ottawa Senators suggesting that he doesn’t want any public money. So clearly there is a universe of options out there that are worth exploring.
Are we discussing any of those universe of options with Ken King and the Flames?
Will CMLC be taking over the file on the City’s behalf, in terms of talking with the Flames?
Again, I’ll reiterate this, this is sort of an odd line of questioning. The City continues to be at the table. We never left the table. It’s up to other people to call and suggest that they’re willing to talk.
Is necessarily the clock ticking on the Olympics having any impact on [arena] discussions from your side?
Not at all. It would be helpful to know what was happening on one file for the other one, but that said the Olympic group has very clearly shown you don’t need two arenas in order to do [the Olympics]. There’s very few cities in the world that have two 20,000 seat arenas that would be interested in hosting a Winter Olympics so it’s definitely possible to do without. It certainty would be nice to do with.
In terms of timelines, here’s what we’ve culled together from various Olympic online sources and Nenshi:
- Calgary’s participating in the “dialogue stage” of bidding, along with Sapporo (Japan), Sion (Switzerland) and Stockholm (Sweden). Unless cities in the dialogue stage bail out, they’re automatically progressed to the “candidature stage” beginning in April.
- City council is slated to vote on putting forward a bid in June, pending the availability of the bid contract (expected in June or July) and support from the federal and provincial governments to help fund it.
- The formal process would involve Calgary telling the Canadian Olympic Committee of their intention to bid, and the COC would submit Calgary’s intentions to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC selects cities to bid in October from the pool of submitted notices of intent.
- The host city is expected to be selected by the IOC in September 2019.