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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Some city councillors are trying to restart arena talks

It’s no secret that the negotiations between the City of Calgary and the Calgary Flames regarding a new building for the hockey club aren’t going well. Heck, they aren’t going on at all right now following a public war of words in the run-up to last October’s municipal election.

But a group of city councillors, led by Ward 6 councillor Jeff Davison, are trying to get talks going again. Their approach is rather simple: changing up the people who are at the negotiating table.

Davison and a few colleagues are working on a motion to create a council sub-committee which would take the lead on arena negotiations with the Flames on the proposed Victoria Park Arena. While City negotiators have been in talks with the Flames on an arena since the August 2015 unveiling of CalgaryNEXT, frequently providing city council members with updates, Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi has become the public face of the City’s side of negotiations since this past fall.

A proposed Victoria Park arena was included in a Nenshi campaign video in September as a key part of a proposed Cultural and Entertainment District. That video prompted a back-and-forth between the Nenshi camp and the Flames which culminated in the Flames announcing that they were pulling out of talks – during their own training camp-opening golf tournament with sponsors and VIPs, no less – and seemingly waiting to see if the October election would give them a more open-minded city council. It didn’t.

But given how sideways things went between Nenshi and Ken King, it’s understandable that there’s some desire within city council to have some new faces in the mix.

“I’m totally happy with having fresh blood at the table,” said Nenshi during a break in Monday’s council meeting. “And I know that many councillors have been getting lots of phone calls from lots of people and feel like they’ve got to do something. But I will remind you as well that the city is still at the table. We’ve been at the table this entire time, and the other party needs to indicate they’re willing to come to the table. And if they are willing to come to the table if they’re dealing with new faces, sure, that’s a good thing. I’d be very happy to continue those conversations.”

Davison has been pretty vocal since joining council on his desire to get two sides back at the bargaining table, even tweeting that all he wanted for Christmas was an arena deal. He noted during a break in Monday’s council meeting that the time is right to try again.

“We haven’t really had any discussions about it since being elected,” said Davison. “Obviously during the campaign I heard a lot from Calgarians that they wanted some kind of resolution and that nobody on either side of the equation was happy. And I think that’s really where we got to as the City, as well. Which is why we’re bringing this forward now. It’s the right time, we’ve done a ton of work to formally assess all the feasibility of areas and deals and all of that, but at the end of the day when those negotiations fail, through whatever fault it was, it’s time to get things on the books again and start a conversation.”

In addition to tying in with the ongoing development work in the East Village by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation – work that’ll continue later this year with the unveiling of the Rivers District Master Plan, which includes Victoria Park and a new arena – as well as tying in with a lot of recent work the City’s been engaging in regarding life-cycle assessments of City-owned assets. Given the age of the Saddledome and the difficulty of retro-fitting it, it’s a conversation worth having.

It’s worth noting that the City’s stance on sinking taxpayer funds into a new Flames building hasn’t necessarily changed – Nenshi expressed that people shouldn’t think that the City’s going to be talked into paying the full freight of a new arena – but it’s more about setting a different tone with new faces and getting dialogue going again.

The motion will be before city council in the near future.

  • Oil Spilly

    As an oiler fan I hope you folks get your arena situation figured out soon. The battle of Alberta is one of the best in pro sports. As much as i dislike the flames I would totally hate to see the team move to a crappy American market and I have a feeling your owner will get fed up soon enough and leave town. Build the damn thing already.

  • DMac

    Like a great many Flames fans, I would welcome a new and fresh start to the discussions. The City needs to keep Nenshi out of the room. And, with some reluctance, its suggested that the Flames replace Mr. King as well. Our mayor has been outright hostile to the Flames efforts and was tone deaf throughout the election campaign last year to his role in the breakdown (and his conspiracy theories about Murray Edwards). And Mr. King met fire with fire (no pun intended). Both sides need to have an open mind. The City needs to look on a new arena as an opportunity, not as something that they can hang other troubles on (i.e. The West Village and the creosote rehab). The Flames need to be cognizant of the city’s need to minimize its cash investment while maximizing its achieving much needed infrastructure (oh wait, the West Village again. . .). And no, contrary to what may appear, I am not advocating for the West Village per se.

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Agree totally. It’s the attitude of both parties. With they way King whined at the press conference at the start of the year, you could tell he was representing a group bringing a lot of hubris to the table. Meanwhile-with reference to the benefits of having a pro sports franchise in Calgary-Nenshi said during the campaign that he believes; “…there is some value to that.” With respect, there is more than “some” value attached to a NHL team in your city. It can put your city’s name on the lips of the world, if all the stars align. Then he said Calgary could use Rogers Place for the Olympic bid.

      Both parties need to realize they’re not getting the deal they want and undergo a hefty reality check.

      Both parties are behaving like utter children.

    • Derzie

      So Nenshi says: we’ll pay for what gives the people value. The owners say: you guys pay and we’ll run the team. And your solution involves keeping Nenshi out of the room? I’m very confused. Nenshi is in the middle and the owners are way skewed to their own benefit. The owners need to come forth with someone willing to wade into the middle/fair ground. if not, no point talking.

      • DMac

        “The owners need to come forth with someone willing to wade into the middle/fair ground. if not, no point talking.” That’s why both sides need to change who they put in the room. Nenshi is far from the middle ground and he made that perfectly clear during his election campaign, that its his way or the highway. Neither side will gain without a change in attitude.

  • Porridge Boy

    During this whole process the Stampede Board has been quiet. They stand to lose as much as any entity if the Flames leave as the own and operate the Cowboy’ s Casino is my understanding. 45 to 50 home dates per yera for the Flames brings a lot of revenue in for the Stampede Board. I can see the Flames wanting to run or share in those casino profits as they are the reason 18 to 20000 people show up on the Stampede Grounds 45 to 50 nights per year. Even the parking is quite a significant revenue stream.

    • McRib

      This has interested me the entire time, I wonder if the Stampede told Edwards & Co to pound sand or something years ago behind closed doors (I’ve met Edwards a few timed, he’s a D-Bag to put it mildly). Weird that they have been so quiet all along though, they must not get along with the Flames anymore.

  • Flamethrower

    Calgary Next was the right idea! Only the proposal was wrong. The location was perfect. The idea of Stampede Park and lining the pockets of the Stampede board is wrong are a one trick pony as to say!
    To many closed minds this was good for the Stampeders and the Flames not to mention the numerous other events, concerts and such.
    I’m a born Calgarian and see that these facilities are a must for the cultural growth of the city.
    The federal government will be on the hook for the clean up of the keresot at the site not the city.
    As far as I’m concerned the rest of the cost should be split 50/50. Also I for one do not wish to lose either the Flames or the Stamps because of a pissing match between Flames ownership and Nenshi’s city Council. Both parties need to pull their heads out of their a$$e$ and get on with it. Not to mention the jobs this would create for our decimated economy. You have to spend money to make money.

    • McRib

      I hated Calgary Next. I don’t want the arena and stadium together at all, considering the Staudum is used for a couple months a year. I go to 50+ Hitmen & Flames games a year, I don’t want to be walking kms around a massive football stadium imprint every time. The cities proposal of Victoria Park was perfect, IMO,

      • McRib

        The owners were the childish ones that stepped away from the table. The owners want it all paid for with public money and 100% of profits, which isn’t going to happen anywhere in North American anymore, once they realize that an arena will get built. I’m fine with some publicly funded money going towards it if the city has a way to recoup our tax payers investment, but right now the owners want 100% of revenue, which frankly again isn’t going to happen in 2018 anywhere in the world (see recent Seattle, Vegas deals being done 100% privately).

      • Stu Gotz

        McRib…obviously you are a Murray Edwards hater….we all know that. Have you ever been to a football game in the fall in cold weather…specifically sitting on the crapper in an outhouse wondering what the score is in the 3rd quarter? Maybe you are in your warm basement at home……

  • buts

    I heard that former mayor candidate Bill Smith was putting together a venture capital group to privately fund a new arena….if that doesn’t work why wouldn’t the flames look at the private companies that built the staples Center, t-mobile and new islanders arena. To me it’s a win for the city, fans and taxpayers.

    • McRib

      Why would any venture capital group be interested in publicly funding a new arena, when the Flames owners aren’t willing to give up any of the revenue? How does any private group stand to make money, they can’t recoup their primary investment? This exactly what the city is experiencing right now as well.

      • buts

        Why? I don’t know maybe ask the LA kings, Las Vegas knights and NY islanders if they are making any money when someone else owns the building. Regardless of your hate for mr Edwards this city needs a field house, stadium and arena.

        • Stu Gotz

          Agree…Right on Buts….It’s the leftist crowd that do not understand business and the needs of the City that can be accomplished by mutual collaboration! Guys like McRib s..t on Edwards and expect him to take all the risk…..

          • Parallex

            Well if Murray Edwards is going to take all the reward then he damn well should take all the risk. If Edwards and Co. want the city to assume the lions share of the cost then they have to accept that the city gets a significant cut of the revenue.

  • Porridge Boy

    I dont believe it is lack of funding or capital. So basically it is like owning or leasing a car; the salesman says your payments are cheaper , so its more afffordable, but the car dealer or the lender must be gaining something over and above if the consumer buys the vehicle outright. I don’t believe outside private corporations(most likely) foreign, are the answer. But there is so much we are not privy to in these matters that im sure my best un-educated case is way off mark. What i do know is McMahon Stadium is a dump and there is money to be made for the ownership in rewarding the Calgary Stampeder’s fan base with a new modern stadium. I dont feel as strongly about the Saddledome as it still seems pretty funcional to me but within a decade maybe not so much. What i feel the Saddledome misses is more nearby pubs and restaurants within walking distance(maybe crawling), to keep fans long after the game and as well to encourage early arrival. I know myself when i go to a Flames game quite often i show up in just in time for the game , maybe eat a hamburger and a beer. If there were more options to eat prior or after within easy commute to the game many Flames Fans i feel would partake. I can the Flames in house vendors trying hard to provide options but there is no where to sit unlees you go to your seat. And of course no one is encouraged to stay after the game as all vendors are close. Any new Entertainment Complex must have a bevy of establishments nearby! Perhaps the Stampede Board could capitalize on this on the Stampede Grounds if they can pass up the parking revenue

    • McRib

      McMahon Stadium is owned by U of C and they refuse to allow any renovations. You know who donated the stadium to U of C? The man who privately funded it Frank McMahon you know when we had decent ownerships groups in this city. Man I wish greedy cockroaches didn’t own all of our sports teams in this city like they currently do, miss the good old days of Doc Seaman, Harley Hotchkiss, etc. Murray Edwards please sell this team to someone that appreciates this city and stay in London.

      • DMac

        I agree about the McMahon brothers having donated the football stadium. In an earlier comment Mr. McRib thinks Murray Edwards is a, and I quote, “D-Bag”. He is not the only owner. And, regardless of his stated locale of residence, he and the other owners, not unlike what the Seaman brothers and Mr. Hotchkiss did in the past, have made huge contributions to this City, of which the Flames are part.

        • Stu Gotz

          Agree. Not only has Edwards made huge contributions to the city but he employs thousands of Albertans through CNRL and his other many private holdings. McRib is obviously a purple follower….that “smartest man in the room” guy has isolated Calgary’s business community. Calgary is the only major city in North America without an amateur field house…ooops I think Okotoks has one.

      • Hockeysense9393

        Bid strengthens Arena as well. You can look at it from both sides. If for some reason that Calgary wins this bid (which is becoming less and less likely due to Nenshi’s absolute incompetence)…the IOC already knows that a new arena will be in the cards due to the infrastructure funding that they, City, Province, and Canadian Government will be contributing. Chances are…this is what the Flames are sitting on their hands waiting for in the first place.

  • Hockeyfan

    Not 1 cent of public money unless Flames are charged rent, utilities, parking, damage and upkeep and get zero concessions. Zero money for mediocre product that stay mediocre or get worse and softer over several decades. Dont like it, see ya. Couldn’t care less if a billionaire has a good pout about not getting public cash.

    • buts

      You say your a hockey fan. If you were you would know that the flames owners put millions of dollars back into the community with no fanfare. Just look at any of Calgary and southern Alberta’s arenas that the flames foundation has upgraded and charities that the flames raise money for. As far as the olympics go why wouldn’t we as citizens not want millions of infrastructure money provided by the province and feds that would not be there with no successful Olympic bid. Money that could be used for low income housing, facilities and a legacy for the city.

      • Derzie

        The reality is that billionaires donate as a form of hush money. It helps charities but it is so they can keep raking in cash. There are some really great examples of people running with it like the Flames Foundation is a North American leader in charities. That is due to the people running it, not the owners. They work hard to fund-raise on their own and give a ton to the community. Doc Seaman did good as well at the end of his life with some great donations to the community on behalf of his son.

        • MontanaMan

          Derzie as usual you are clueless. Why don’t you share your socialist views about Canada not needing expanded pipeline capacity? And didn’t you say you were done being a Flames fan if they hired Peters as their head coach? See ya.

      • Parallex

        Okey so below you whine about taxes and here you are demanding oogles of public spending… where do you think the money to pay for that comes from? Make up your mind.

  • Hockeysense9393

    For any chance that this even gets any traction at all with the Flames…again? I truly believe that Nenshi needs to just shut his mouth and take himself out of the equation all together. Let other more competent people get this back to the table and talk again. So long as he weighs in at all…the Flames are done with him. Just shut up and use your “1 vote” when it’s finally finished and that is asked of you. Otherwise…just shut the ell up…like seriously!

  • MontanaMan

    I was wondering what initiated council to reopen the talks on the arena. It didn’t seem like it was the Olympics so why now have they gone public with negotiating with the club? I heard from someone in the know that the Flames have a potential deal in place to move the team to Houston for $750 MM USD for the 2019/2020 season. I’m hard pressed to believe the NHL would approve such a move, given the strength of the Calgary franchise and the money in an expansion franchise, but even if it’s not true, I’m wondering if the rumour is being circulated to put a gun to council’s head?