Too early to determine if new arena will cost Calgarians more, Gondek says

It’s too early to determine whether a new arena deal will cost more public money than the old one, Calgary’s mayor told the media on Thursday.

Construction of the $600-million arena in Victoria Park was supposed to start in early 2022. However, the deal was terminated Jan. 1 after the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) walked away from the project due to rising costs.

Calgary city council voted unanimously Wednesday to keep working on a new event centre while directing administration to determine whether CSEC would be interested in re-entering discussions — and whether there may be other parties interested in partnering with the city. 

On Thursday, Gondek said seeking a new arena deal will present an opportunity for all potential partners, but it’s too early to say if it will cost Calgarians more or less than previous negotiations.

Under the terms of the now-terminated agreement, the city would pay $287.5 million in direct arena costs.

It also agreed to cover additional outlays, like the cost of demolishing the Saddledome once the new building opened, plus land and other associated costs — pushing its share to an estimated $325 million.

“Let’s remember there’s land involved, which has a lot of value, so we will see what we’re able to come back with,” Gondek said.

“Again, it’s a brand new opportunity to get this right.”

Entertainment district pressing ahead, says CMLC CEO 

Council wants a report back in early March on a way forward, as a new arena is seen as a key to the success of the entertainment district planned in Victoria Park.

“Obviously, we hope something can be struck with the Flames,” said Joel Cowley, CEO of the Calgary Stampede, in a news conference on Thursday.

“But if it is another party, we’re certainly open to that, because the impact of the event centre on the community would be undeniable.”

Meanwhile, Kate Thompson, president and CEO of Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, told CBC News on Thursday the rest of the district is going ahead and on schedule.

“For us, the event centre and the pause — and hopefully the restart — affects some of the ancillary projects, not the main projects we’re working on,” she said.

Renderings of the event centre and Stampede Trail looking north. (Calgary Municipal Land Corporation)

The $500-million BMO convention centre expansion, for example, is on budget, on schedule and “well underway,” Thompson said.

“Some of the other projects that are affected are hopeful extra developments in the area, so hotel and others. Those will be under review and discussion, depending on the outcome of this next round of negotiations,” she said.

“We’re really motivated to have an event centre move forward and complete the district, but we’re also eyes focused on all the work that we’re doing currently.”

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