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Calgary arena up to $60 million over initial budget: City admin

Calgary’s Events Centre could be as much as $60 million over budget councillors heard, and parties are trying to find savings to put a cap on arena costs.

Councillors once again emerged from a couple hours behind closed doors and during the rise and report Coun. Jeromy Farkas questioned admin on cost escalation.

LiveWire Calgary was first to report details of the potential revised deal that came after a lengthy in-camera session in late June.  Progress on the project to replace the Saddledome has been paused since April because of budgetary differences. Initial speculation pegged the cost overrun at up to $70 million.

As of today, there is no agreed upon design for the new, potentially $600 million project. The initial construction start date was August 2021.

Coun. Farkas asked point blank how much the Events Centre was estimated to be over budget.

“We still continue to work on the budget and looking to find savings. But I would estimate it’s in the range of $50-to-60 million at the current cost estimates, over and above the $550 million,” said Stuart Dalgleish, GM of Planning and Development.

GM Dalgleish later clarified that while the current specs put it over budget, city council hasn’t yet agreed to any budget addition for the project.

He said they’re doing work to come up with a design that meets the principles of both parties.

Confidential questions?

The conversation raised questions about a breach in confidentiality, with the inquiries from Coun. Farkas coming out of a closed session.

“You cannot come here after a closed session meeting and start asking questions that were asked in closed session and demanding answers,” said Coun. Jyoti Gondek.

“What’s the point of closed session, we should have just done everything else here.

“This was intended to do nothing. Nothing short of breaching a closed session meeting and make someone look like the hero who’s saving Calgarians from a project.”

Coun. Jeff Davison said they agreed that this project would not be negotiated in public.

“Now we have a ton of gaslighting going on and all kinds of allegations being made to try and alter deals,” he said.

In the end, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said most of the information shared today had already been made public in the past. There was no breach of confidentiality, he said.

Council agree to keep the full discussion confidential for now. It’s expected to return to council for the July 26 meeting.