The new chair of the Calgary Event Centre committee said getting a new arena is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
The Event Centre committee was created by Calgary city council in March to fulfill the goal of a new building as a part of the Rivers District master plan, the new culture and entertainment district and a commitment to downtown revitalization.
The committee met for the first time on Monday.
It’s the next step after a failed $650 million deal between the City and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) just prior to the new year. CSEC backed away from the deal as costs escalated and they were on the hook to pay. That was part of a revised deal signed last summer.
The city still wanted an arena for the area. They sought out an as-yet-unnamed third-party agent to assess the likelihood of working with the Calgary Flames parent company, or another partner.
“This is a very big project for Calgary,” said committee chair, Coun. Sonya Sharp.
“This committee is really to make sure that it oversees the work of administration, and that we get the job done.”
Sharp was acclaimed as chair, and Calgary Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Deborah Yedlin was appointed vice-chair.
Yedlin said it was important to have someone at arm’s length from the city “who represents the business interests in the city of Calgary and is not encumbered by previous history… and is able to take an honest view as a representative accordingly to Calgarians.”
More in public the better, said Coun. Sharp
While the first meeting went straight into closed session after the election of chair and vice-chair, Coun. Sharp said the goal is transparency.
“I’m a firm believer that transparency is really important,” she said.
“Not to say that there wasn’t before, but this is a different time with this project. We need to make sure that we’re keeping that trust and confidence with our partners, the citizens and the rest of the business community.”
Sharp also said that perhaps there was misinformation out there before on who would own the building. She said the city would have owned it and the Flames would have been a tenant. That’s why transparency is important, she said.
Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott, who also sits on the committee, said it was important to get this project right for Calgary.
“That’s really the core of our mandate here is that we provide something of high value for the city,” he said.
The group set future meeting dates and outline specific roles.
Sharp said they were essentially an oversight committee. The third-party adviser reported to city administration. Admin would then report that work to the committee. This committee would not be directly negotiating with any partners.