Calgary city council voted ‘yes’ to approve a new $550 million arena deal, despite calls from some councillors to delay the deal for further public consultation.
All 15 councillors were present for the meeting – including Coun. Ray Jones, who has been absent due to medical reasons and Coun. Joe Magliocca present via telecom from Europe.
Some councillors expressed concern citizens have only had a week to review and provide feedback on the new framework. Coun. Jeff Davison, who is also the chair of the city’s Event Centre Assessment Committee said the City Clerk’s office received more than 5,200 public submissions during that time.
The vote was carried 11 to 4. Councillors Evan Woolley, Jeromy Farkas, George Chahal and Dru Farrell voted against the deal.
Woolley said he’s opposed to the deal for two reasons: The land options and the “cloaked and backroom process” in how the deal was negotiated. The ward 8 councillor added he’s for building an arena and isn’t against the Flames, but wished to see a fair process.
“We are elected to make decisions and [those] are meant to be done with due diligence.” He also pointed to low confidence ratings of the mayor and councillors.
No reason for delay on Calgary arena deal: Mayor Nenshi
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said there’s no reason to drag the process out anymore.
“I think council has all the information they need to make up their mind. Whether to say yes or no I don’t think any amount of public feedback is going to change that,” he said.
As for next steps, the President of the Calgary Flames said they have about one year of planning and around 40 months of building before the project is finished.
“The real work starts now,” Ken King said after the vote. “So we’ve passed the first gate and we have many more gates to get by.”
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.
The project is expected to seat 19,000 people and the city will own the events centre. That latter aspect has long been a bone of contention with many people opposed to the project.
The city estimates they will get $400 million in return over the 35 year agreement.
Previous Calgary arena deal negotiations between the City and the Flames broke off in 2017. They resumed late 2018 when city councillors asked to see if the sides could find common ground. Negotiations fell apart again after disagreements over the shared costs.
A full breakdown of the deal can be read here.