City will pursue other means of getting arena built, Calgary mayor says

·3 min read
This rendering of the Calgary arena was presented to the Calgary Planning Commission in November.  (City of Calgary - image credit)
This rendering of the Calgary arena was presented to the Calgary Planning Commission in November. (City of Calgary - image credit)

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said Wednesday the city will pursue other ways of getting a new downtown arena built after its deal with the Flames owners was officially terminated earlier this week.

Construction was supposed to start on the $600-million arena in Victoria Park in early 2022 — but on Dec. 21, Gondek said she had been informed by the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) that it would not be proceeding with the project.

In the days that followed, the Flames owners indicated they wouldn't go ahead due to rising costs.

WATCH | Kenney responds to Calgary's event centre termination:

Gondek said at a news conference on Wednesday that other avenues will now be pursued.

"Now is the time to look very holistically at the district itself, rather than trying to build a district around a single project," she said.

Gondek also emphasized that although the city is not in any negotiations at the moment, a new arena remains a goal.

"I would like to make sure that Calgarians understand that building an event centre is still a strategic direction of [city] council," Gondek said.

"There are still many interested parties … that want to see this move forward."

'Almost unanimous' desire on council for new arena, Chabot says

Some members of council, however, have said they are less optimistic about finding another partner for a new deal with the "magnitude" of the Flames owners.

On the Wednesday edition of the Calgary Eyeopener, and before Gondek's news conference, Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot said this will present challenges.

"This is something that the City of Calgary has been pursuing for over 15 years, and the idea that we're just going to snap our fingers and find a new partner, I think, is a very utopian sort of opinion," Chabot said.

"It's not going to happen. Not a partner of this magnitude."

Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said the desire to come to the table with a partner is something that is "absolutely there."

He also said they will build with "whatever partner they find."

According to Chabot there is an "almost unanimous" desire from city council to get the arena built.

It's a key piece of redeveloping the city's downtown core, he told the Eyeopener on Wednesday.

But Chabot said it would be difficult to revisit talks with the CSEC, and a conversation about a renegotiation can happen only with a neutral third party at the table.

"The two partners don't seem to play well in the sandbox together, which was typical of the previous council as well," Chabot said.

However, Gondek said other factors also affected the deal — and the city now has a chance to re-envision it.

"COVID has wreaked havoc on supply chains, and it has impacted this project and many others," Gondek said.

"It's time to sit down and understand how new operating models could potentially work in everyone's best interest, including the public that the city council serves."

Council is set to revisit the matter next Tuesday, when it will work to determine how the project will go ahead, Gondek said.

The CSEC has said the Calgary Flames will continue to play at the Saddledome.

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