Calgary city council votes to move ahead with arena negotiations

Following a lengthy closed-door meeting and some spirited debate, Calgary city council voted late Monday night to move forward with negotiations with the Calgary Flames on a new home for the hockey club.

Up to this point, the Flames and the Event Centre Assessment Committee have been chatting in broad strokes about what a deal could look like that would meet everyone’s needs. The committee’s “terms of reference” have bounded the conversation, as has the work done by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation on the Rivers District Master Plan – the sales pitch is an arena (or “event centre”) would be an anchor tenant in a cultural and entertainment district and draw in outside investors to the area. (Though this model has generally worked in terms of leveraging government investments in the adjacent East Village redevelopment, the notion of building an arena or stadium to draw in additional investment has historically had spotty results.)

A couple weeks back, the committee approved a term sheet for negotiations between the two sides. Effectively, the term sheet sets the parameters for what the city needs to have in an arena deal. At the time, it was also mentioned that a funding source had been identified for the project. In other words, the committee and city administration ironed out out what parameters – financial and otherwise – that they were comfortable with including in a proposed deal.

Long story short, from everything that’s been discussed to date:

  • Both sides are reasonably comfortable with the proposed Victoria Park site (two blocks north of the Saddledome).
  • The project would cost somewhere around $600 million.
  • Both sides have been discussing the broad strokes and haven’t hit a philosophical wall (yet).

Given that the “big picture” discussions preceded the term sheet and the identification of a funding source, it’s natural to suspect that these discussions influenced them. That said, previous negotiation history was always going to play a part here, so the term sheet probably represents the things the city wants in the deal that they think they can get.

Monday night’s vote now authorizes formal negotiations between the committee and the Flames. Given that they’ve been talking already, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly a deal could come together given that both sides have probably staked out their respective bargaining positions in their previous informal discussions.

For those who tend to get a bit nervous – and who are hoping that the city doesn’t sell off the proverbial farm and harm their ability to fund basic services – no deal can be finalized without being approved by city council. Part of Monday’s meeting was also discussion of a public engagement plan, which would follow the sides coming to a tentative deal.

The two sides are talking turkey now. The fact that things have progressed this far is a good sign, in terms of getting a new building for the Flames. But given the hesitance shown by several members of City Council given the uncertain provincial and federal political climates and the fairly hefty financial commitment the city’s already making towards the Green Line LRT, it’s hardly a done deal.

  • Burnward

    It was always going to go this way.

    Nenshi had to politick to get re-elected. But his ego is enormous. He would never let a legacy thing like this pass him by.

    We can debate all we want but this baby is getting done.

  • The GREAT WW

    How many millions did the city waste on this idiotic fast bus transit fiasco……?!
    Would have been better spent on bigger washrooms in the new arena!


  • FLT

    Thanks for following this story Pike. Any thoughts on what “funding source” has been identified? Would this be a re-distribution of money from other city projects, or something else?

    • FLT

      I think north is correct. The Dome is actually in line with 17th Ave, and a couple blocks east of the train tracks. Two blocks straight north looks like surface parking lots.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Wouldn’t spending $300 million on a great Reno be money better spent. Look what Seattle is doing, who needs a complete new structure. What would they do with the Saddledome.

    • Flames fan since 83

      Jimmy, here is latest on Seattle arena costs in US dollars!!! (pretty much re building and not a Reno>)
      Seattle’s NHL arena costs jump to US$850 million. Redevelopment project set to cost more than US$200 million more than initially predicted. The cost of Seattle’s National Hockey League (NHL) arena has soared to US$850 million – US$250 million more than initially expected.Dec 7, 2018

  • Flamethrower

    They need to pony up the same deal as, and was, given to the Oilers up north of here. Make it easy on our city council and the “I need more Stampede board” as both clubs should be treated equally and fairly. It always seems like in Calgary that City Hall is always looking for a way to wine and cheap out on one hand the fritter away money on the other! This new arena is needed.

    • Harley Hotchkiss’s Ghost

      The City of Edmonton got absolutely hosed by Daryl Katz. I’m all for the City coming closer to some of the Flames demands, but I don’t want the deal they did in Edmonton.