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Calgarians split on new event centre deal: ThinkHQ

There’s an even split in Calgarian’s views on a new Calgary arena deal, though a majority of respondents in a new survey suggest the time to review it is too short.

The new ThinkHQ survey did show that a majority of Calgary residents support the idea of replacing the aging Saddledome, however the in the overall sentiment, the intensity of support favours those against the deal.

The new event centre / arena deal would see the city contribute $290 million (including demolition and land) and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation putting in $275 million. There are also additional options for CSEC to pick up two pieces of valuable inner city land for future development.

Some councillors have expressed concern that citizens have only had a week to review and provide feedback on the new framework.

Barring any potential delays, city councillors are expected to vote on the deal Tuesday.

Forty-seven per cent of Calgarians are both for and against the Calgary event centre deal, with 26 per cent strongly opposed and only 14 per cent strongly in favour. Support is lowest among those under the age of 35, according to the ThinkHQ numbers.

There are elements of the deal people are pleased with, including the 35-year term to keep the Calgary Flames in the city, along with $75 million that will be provided to amateur sports. However, a majority (65 per cent) don’t agree with the city having to pick up the majority of the cost for the demolition of the Saddledome.

“There is a lot of goodwill in Calgary toward the Flames.  People are proud of the team, they recognize their contribution to the city both in terms of economic impact and community good, and there is support for replacing the Saddledome,” said Marc Henry, ThinkHQ president.

“But the current proposed deal between The City and CSEC splits voters right down the middle.  That said, aside from “sticker shock” about the size of The City’s contribution to the project, there is reasonably good support for many of the specific provisions of the deal today.”  

Even with the support, Henry feels city council might be pushing the issue by ramming through a Calgary event centre deal with little time to review it.

“The risk in pressing forward for Council is two-fold: First, it may undermine support for the deal itself as even 35% of those who like the plan think that a one-week consultation is too short,” Henry said.

“Second, public confidence in Council is staggeringly low right now, and if a quick approval leaves voters feeling unheard by their elected officials on a big project like this, watch out. There isn’t an incumbent on Council who shouldn’t be nervous, and the municipal election is only 812 days away.”

The study surveyed 645 Calgarians between July 24 and 26, and was weighted to reflect the gender, age and region of Calgary population according to Statistics Canada.

A random stratified sample of panelists was invited to complete the survey from several panel sources. The margin of error for a comparable probability based random sample is +/- 3.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.