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Calgary Event Centre… arena deal is signed and sealed

Final agreements have been signed for the new Calgary event centre and the ongoing development of the new Victoria Park cultural and entertainment district.

Coun. Jeff Davison, fresh off being re-elected as chair of the city’s Event Centre Assessment committee, made the announcement that the City of Calgary, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC), the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) and the Calgary Stampede all signed their respective agreements in the deal.

“The long saga we’ve had here is finally over, and Calgarians will finally have a facility to move forward with and hopefully this will help unfold the next chapter of positive momentum in our city,” Davison said.

In the agreement, the city approved a capital budget appropriation of $290.4 million for the city-funded portion of the deal, according to city manager David Duckworth, who personally signed the documents.

CSEC issued a statement on the signing Thursday, saying it’s another important step in the process.

“We now turn our attention to the execution of the project and look forward to working closely with the City, CMLC, and the Stampede as we begin to set out plans for the design and construction of the Event Centre,” read the statement attributed to CSEC president and CEO, John Bean.

With the official go ahead, Calgary councillors heard the next steps in the project, including where certain aspects are at, and what’s planned for work in 2020.

Councillors get update on Rivers District progress

Incoming CMLC president, Kate Thompson, updated councillors on the progress. Design and construction has begun on both the BMO and the renovated Stampede LRT Station, and project planning is being done for the 5 Street underpass, Thompson said. For the new arena, geotechnical analysis is expected in January 2020.

Thompson said that beyond just the management of the construction, it’s the CMLC’s responsibility to ensure the Rivers District vision is carried out.

“Beyond just the project, but making sure alignment with the Rivers District master plan that I spoke of earlier, making sure that we are indeed creating a district, not just a bunch of buildings separate and distinct from each other,” Thompson said, adding they have the unique challenge of building both the arena and the BMO expansion at the same time.

“As important as each of the buildings are, it’s the spaces in between that CMLC will also be making sure work for Calgarians.”

Thompson said they’ll be using many of the lessons they learned in construction of the new Central Library, the BMO Centre and other work in the East Village.

Public engagement up in January

Public engagement will be done in January, and Thompson said it’s to get feedback on creating a “living vision” for the project. That will include participation from citizens, businesses and area residents.

Many opposed to the project cite the Saddledome’s inability to be a catalyst for activity and engagement in the area during its 40-year tenure.

“We’ve heard a lot about street face activation, and how we can actually make this building more than a box that has a rink,” Thompson said.

“So how do you activate that community space and beyond the edges? I think that’s the distinction. And that’s what makes it catalytic. If we just create a box with a rink in it, we’re not going to be successful.”

Right now, the construction schedule has completion pegged at 2024, with the design process starting in the 2nd quarter of 2020 and going into 2021. Thompson said they’ve already seen some designs, and while exciting, they haven’t been publicly released yet.

More details on the Calgary event centre deal

City of Calgary solicitor Glenda Cole reiterated many of the terms on the deal, but shed more light on potential relocation of the Calgary Flames during the construction process and also on the cost of the facility fee applied to each ticket.

The upcoming lease will be two, one-year leases and then a 33-year lease.

Should CSEC terminate project they will be responsible for their share of the $275 million up to that point in construction. If they weren’t to renew, default or relocate on the leases, they would forfeit their $275 million investment, said Cole. They would also have to “remedy existing defaults” that CSEC was responsible for, pay the city balance of $2.5 million in naming rights and cover the operating costs for five years.

There will be a facility fee on all tickets at the Calgary event centre. A facility fee of eight per cent will be tacked on, with two per cent retained by the city. The City’s share is capped at $3 million per year for the first five years.

During last week’s budget debate, Coun. Evan Woolley had pitched the idea that Calgary event centre funding should be pulled and that capital should be put towards the fledgling Green Line project.

That motion was defeated.