Flames and Calgary agree to keep discussing new arena, can’t agree on where to find $1.3B

The Calgary city council voted 12-3 on Monday to continue discussions with the Flames and Stampeders owners on a new hockey arena and football stadium, either via the mammoth CalgaryNEXT complex or a cheaper Plan B whose details have yet to be determined. And the two sides had very different interpretations of where things go from here, not least over what the actual price tag, which for CalgaryNext the city says will be $1.8 billion, while the team owners say they can do it for a mere $1.3 billion. First, Flames CEO Ken King:

“Frankly, who knows which may emerge better. We have a luxury here. We get to choose between what may be two very, very good ideas.”

And then, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi:

“Certainly there’s a difference of opinion on numbers, but if I’m looking at their numbers they still say this is a $1.3 billion project. Obviously there’s a lot more questions, including who’s got $1.3 billion. … Even their best-case scenario is still a lot of money that we don’t have.”

There’s nothing wrong with talking, really, and Nenshi and the council seem to remain determined to take a hard line that any new venue proposals don’t involve shoveling piles of money at the teams that the public would never get back. This could drag out forever — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless you’re King and his fellow Flames and Stampeders execs, wringing their hands about how their profits aren’t as big as they’d be if they got massive public subsidies for a new building or two, and I’m guessing most of you aren’t. Though with municipal elections coming up in 2017, you have to figure King and friends have in the back of their minds that maybe they can wait for a new, more-profits-friendly city government — I tried checking on Nenshi’s latest poll numbers, but they haven’t turned up, though I did discover that Calgary residents are strongly in support of playground swings.

ADDENDUM: And then there’s this:

4 comments on “Flames and Calgary agree to keep discussing new arena, can’t agree on where to find $1.3B

  1. Hey Neil, I think you meant to say, “a new hockey arena and football stadium” in the first sentence.

    I’m curious to see how the Flames proceed next. They’re probably secretly hoping the Oilers start rocketing up the standings so they can say that it’s because of Edmonton’s new (taxpayer-paid-for) arena, while ignoring all of the first overall draft picks the Oilers have had in the last few years.

    It is great, though, to finally see a politician actually seeming to put his/her constituents ahead of the whims of ridiculously wealthy businessmen. Hopefully the city is able to maintain that resistance.

    • Whoops, indeed I did — corrected, thanks.

      I seriously do expect that the Flames owners’ next move is “Wait around and see if more amenable politicians take over City Hall.” Could be a while, but they’ve got time. Only other option is to spend time hanging around Seattle and Quebec and hope that scares Nenshi, though that doesn’t seem likely.

      (“Build it with their own money” is even less likely, since then they’d be better off just not building it at all.)

  2. Yedlin has been publicly shilling for major corporations in Calgary (via her media “job”) for years. Her lack of research and/or attention to detail is nothing new either.

    Given that Nenshi won the last mayoral race with around 75% of the vote (which doesn’t happen, ever), it may be a long while before multibillionaire Murray Edwards (who just left Canada to take up residence in England, I’m told…) can deploy his considerable financial power to “make this happen”… but likely not in the way most of us think it would, with the multibillionaire non-resident (for tax reasons) paying for his own building himself.

  3. Calgary’s next mayoral election is October 2017, so I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see this as one of the main issues – if not the biggest issue – that’s discussed in the lead-up to that. Fortunately, Nenshi’s seen as a very popular leader. I haven’t lived in Calgary for a few years or been back for 10 months, but I have a hard time seeing it change from what was a staggeringly high approval rating in the 70s. The city also has a pretty good council and their top bureaucrat, Jeff Fielding – the city manager, is seen as among the best in the country at his job. The leadership base is there to protect against a blank cheque being handed out anytime soon.
    The province of Alberta’s economy is in such rough shape I don’t see people wanting to stomach it for quite a long time though. Had this been about five years ago, it might’ve been a different story.
    I also wouldn’t be surprised if sightings of King and higher ups in the Flames’ organization are spotted in Seattle or Quebec City. I personally think Quebec City wasn’t chosen for expansion because of the low Canadian dollar, but also because the NHL can make it a city they threaten to move teams to until/if the dollar rebounds to what it was years ago.