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‘Fresh start’: Calgary, CSEC to enter formal Event Centre discussions

It’s being dubbed a “fresh start” for Calgary’s once scuppered Event Centre deal.

The City of Calgary and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) have agreed to begin formal negotiations on a new event centre deal. The matter was brought forth during Wednesday’s Event Centre Committee meeting.

The City also announced that CAA ICON has been retained to represent them in structuring the deal. They have experience in structuring the deals and developing financing plans for sports infrastructure in municipalities across North America and in Europe.

Event Centre Chair Sonya Sharp said it’s a significant next step on the project.

“It’s the next phase. The first part of this was really exploring conversations, building relationships, and making sure that we were ready to get to this point,” she said.

“Clearly, with the announcement today, we are.”

The prior $650 million deal was scrapped after a Dec. 31, 2021 construction stage gate wasn’t met. CSEC walked away from the deal, in what’s been described as a misalignment in how costs for the project would be split.

Council then recommitted to having an Event Centre in the downtown area. A third party group was brought in to help smooth over an icy relationship between the City and CSEC. That group – Guy Huntingford, John Fisher and Phil Swift – has now concluded their work.

“We appreciate the efforts of Guy, John and Phil,” said John Bean, President and CEO of CSEC, in a prepared media release.

“All parties share a collective desire to see a new event centre constructed in Calgary. We look forward to discussions with The City to see if we can find an acceptable path forward.”

What are the next steps?

Coun. Sharp said that CAA ICON will now lead the project and they will formalize the next conversation pieces around the new event centre deal. 

They will be a third-party that reports to the city, and represents the city, Sharp said.

While it’s a new group doing the formal discussions, the process through the Event Centre committee remains the same. All information will be provided via the Event Centre committee.

The current Event Centre committee mandate ends Oct. 25, but will be renewed at city council’s organizational meeting. Sharp also indicated interest in staying on as chair.

For now, the sides are going to regroup. Sharp said they understand that timing is important with an upcoming four-year budget process in the work. There’s no definitive timeline on when they’d like to see a deal done.

“Time is of the essence, of course. But we need to make sure we’re doing this right so there’ll be also, move-quick, move-slow type thing,” she said.

“Of course, conversations around budget and all our capital projects are critical.”

Sharp said all of the prior deal components would be considered. The sides will have to determine what they can reuse.

“I think what’s important is this is a fresh start,” she said.  

“That’s going to mean locations, design, opportunity, and, and I think that that’s really important for us to move forward and say this is a fresh start. We’re pursuing formal discussions on all sorts of components of building the best event center we can build in the City of Calgary.”

Mayor Jyoti Gondek, fresh off the official pro basketball announcement Wednesday, said it’s a great day for the city.

“I think Calgarians are going to be very happy that we are moving forward,” she said.

“The committee and council had asked for patience as we built a relationship and figured out whether this was something that we could revisit. It turns out that we can, so it’s a great news day for Calgary when it comes to sport.”