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It’s official: The Calgary arena deal is done

The Calgary Event Centre deal is officially dead.

As Calgarians prepared for New Year’s Eve celebrations, the Dec. 31 arena construction stage gate passed and the agreement between the City and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) has ended. A senior city official confirmed the information.

As 2021 wound to a close, CSEC walked away from an estimated $650 million arena deal. They cited a misalignment in who would cover costs arising after the revised July 2021 deal.

Added city costs coming from the development permit approval were only part of the equation, according to CSEC CEO John Bean.  Supply costs, inflation and lingering economic uncertainty were also factors.

“There’s a number of factors that go in, but at the end of the day, you added them all up and you try and make your best educated, informed decision,” Bean said in late December.

According to the senior city official, there is no opportunity to resurrect this specific agreement. It was unclear if they would have to start from scratch on a new deal.

While it was initially only announced publicly, the missed stage-gate officially ended the agreement. Further, the city did not receive written notice from CSEC for construction to begin.

Construction conditions had to be waived by both parties by Dec. 31 for the agreement to continue.

Premier Kenney blames City for deal’s failure

When asked at a recent Covid-19 provincial update, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney laid the blame for this situation squarely on the city.

“I’m very disappointed that the City of Calgary decided to change the deal at the last minute,” the Premier said.

Prior to release conditions were added during the discussion on the matter at the Calgary Planning Commission. Part of that included the addition of photovoltaic solar cells to the rooftop. Also added were right-of-way changes to roads in the area.

Premier Kenney said construction was ready to proceed, and as he understood it the owners group said they were looking at significant construction cost inflation.

“The city’s response to that was to add even more costs and more delays. So I think that’s really regrettable,” he said.

Premier Kenney noted that prior to Christmas he spent four days in back-to-back meetings with CEOs of major Canadian companies. He was promoting investment in Alberta and the high quality of life and relatively low cost of living.

Part of his pitch, he said, was the new amenities being built in Calgary, including the Event Centre.

“I do think that’s part of the broader package of an effort to get Calgary’s mojo back to get people moving here and, and to bring investment here and to have world-class facilities,” Premier Kenney said.

What’s next?

City administration is working with both parties to tie up any lingering aspects of the deal. 

According to the official, a report will be provided to council in Q1 of 2022 outlining costs incurred and a review of the Event Centre situation.

There are currently no negotiations.

In his media conference, Bean said the situation was still too raw to determine what happens next. The Calgary Flames will continue to play at the Scotiabank Saddledome. When asked, Bean said they hadn’t thought about potential renovations to the 40-year-old building.

The current council direction is for an Event Centre to be built in Calgary. There has been no indication if this will change, though it’s believed city council is still committed to its construction.

The Flames provided a statement early Tuesday morning.

“We have always believed that Calgary needs a new Event Centre” said John Bean, President and CEO of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation.

“However, under the current circumstances we do not see a path forward that would create a viable partnership with the city, which is essential for a new Event Centre to become a reality.”