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Calgary event centre proposal could come within next two months: Coun. Davison

Calgarians could see a potential Calgary event centre proposal by early spring, according to the councillor leading the city’s event centre assessment committee.

Events Centre Assessment Committee chair, Ward 6 Coun. Jeff Davison, told LiveWire this week that his personal timeline to get a deal done with the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) – owner of the Calgary Flames – would be within the next 60 days.

Davison’s optimism echoes that of Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) CEO Michael Brown, who told Common Ground YYC podcast host Josh White that he’s hopeful a deal gets done within three months.

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“You can only go back so many times collectively, to be honest, before we hate each other, and you just can’t move it forward,” Brown said in the Jan. 31 episode.

Brown said they’re certainly not at that point and they’re working well together on the business deal.

Davison said the Flames have asked them for two things: A vision for the area and a business proposal from the city. He said the work ofthe CMLC has provided the vision with the Rivers District plan. Next up is the proposal.

“We’re actively working on it now. Probably within the next month or two. That’s my goal timing. It’s not gospel, but we’re at the point now where you can study these things to death and continue down that path, and at some point, it’s always going to boil down to do you want to make a decision to do or not do something,” Davison said.

“And so, I think we have all the relevant information we need as a city to make a decision, we need to package that up now and get moving forward with it.”

Negotiations with the Flames broke off in 2017 after a very public spat and two competing proposals. Only within the past six months have talks restarted.

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Now, the city’s estimated that the cost for a new, 20,000 seat multi-use event centre could come in at $600 million.

“We’ve been talking about it for a long time, I think we’ve gotten to a really good place and we’ve had quite a lot of high level discussions with Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation – they’ve been productive, they’ve been positive, they’ve been respectful…” Davison said, adding that it’s time a decision on the project is made.

Davison said there’s a sharp contrast between the scale of the project before – an arena – and the one they’re discussing now, which is a larger development proposal for the area around a new arena / events centre.

“To be honest, we’ve done a lot of the due diligence, we’ve really done the ground work on what does the vision look like, how do we achieve the vision, what does the vision cost, what are the benefits – all that work’s been done and so you go back to what’s different between then and now and it’s really that vision and planning – it’s there,” he said.

Brown also suggested in the podcast that there are creative ways to get CSEC involved in the overall development, not just a single building – and have that be a part of the overall business deal.

“We’ve tried to focus them on the district and less aboutthe arena,” Brown said.

How the deal takes shape remains to be seen, however Coun. Davison reiterated Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s comments to the CBC earlier this week that there likely wouldn’t be significant public consultation on the new proposal.

“Frankly, we’ve done the consultation work upfront. CMLC has engaged with over 10,000 Calgarians at multiple city events all throughout the city, engaging and asking those questions,” Davison said.

“Most citizens have in some way, if they care, they’ve contacted their councillor, they talk about it with friends, they talk about it with family, they talk about it – if you’re a ticket holder, they talk about it with them. The conversation is out there and happening.”

He also suggested this was a single project, similar to the construction of a recreation centre or a couple of interchanges.

“We’re talking about the kind of money we’d build a rec centre with.  We don’t have a plebiscite on whether or not we should build the next rec centre,” Davison said.

“What point at the end of the day do you – you always move forward with conversation, but at some point you kind of have to cut it off and say, we’ve engaged, we’ve done our job here. Let’s make a decision.”