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Premier Smith says Calgary needs a world class Event Centre

Mayor Gondek, Coun. Sonya Sharp both said it's a positive development to have the province interested in the Calgary arena project.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is throwing her support behind a new Calgary Event Centre.

Smith posted a letter to social media shortly before noon on Tuesday, saying she was pleased to learn that formal Calgary arena talks had restarted.

“As a former Olympic host city, Calgarians are passionate supporters of both professional and amateur sport and comprise one of the greatest professional hockey fan bases in the world,” Premier Smith wrote in a letter addressed to Mayor Jyoti Gondek, Coun. Sonya Sharp – chair of the prior Event Centre committee – and John Bean, chairman of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC).

“As someone who has lived most of my life in Calgary, I know the Flames are an integral part of the fabric of the City, not to mention a critical direct and indirect economic driver and job creator for the community.”

Last week, the city’s Event Centre committee approved commencement of formal arena talks with CSEC. It comes roughly 10 months after the last approved $650 million deal was scrapped after a construction stage gate wasn’t met Dec. 31.

Smith goes on to say that given the importance of the project, she wants to identify ways that the province can assist Calgary and CSEC in achieving a “successful outcome.” It doesn’t specifically identify funding. We reached out to the Premier’s Office for further clarification. They said funding hasn’t yet been discussed.

Smith said she’s asked Calgary Hays MLA Rick McIver to be the provincial rep for the project.

“Simply stated, Calgary needs a new world class event centre, and the time to commence with this project is now,” Premier Smith said.

The province was not a major player in the last arena project. In 2019, then-Premier Jason Kenney opted to stay out of arena talks.

Later, however, Kenney chided the city for the failed arena deal.

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Sharp said it’s a promising development

Coun. Sonya Sharp, who chaired the previous Event Centre committee, said provincial support for the project would be welcome.

“My first takeaway was it’s really positive to see that the Premier is supportive on such a great project for Calgary,” she said.

Sharp said if she continues on as chair of the Event Centre committee, one of her first questions to MLA McIver will what sort of role they expect to play. That includes potential cash for the project.

The city did hire a third-party to handle negotiations for them. Sharp said they’d need time to be a part of the conversation. Though, she doesn’t want to see more red-tape on this project.

“I would say one of my biggest things is we don’t want to slow anything down,” she said.

Sharp also said it was premature to guess what might happen if there’s a change in government in a May 2023 provincial election.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said it’s a positive sign that the province wants to be involved.

“It’s a good first step. I would assume that since they’ve designated a contact person, there might be some funding involved,” the mayor said.

“That’s always good news on a project of this nature.”