Following Calgary Flames CEO Ken King’s announcement on Tuesday that his team was going to take its arena-negotiating ball and go home, the Calgary city council voted yesterday to release the city proposal that King had called “spectacularly unproductive.” The details aren’t public yet, but the basics, according to Toronto Metro:
- An estimated $500-600 million in construction costs would be shared one-third by the city, one-third by the Flames, and one-third by a ticket surcharge.
- The city wanted to get its third repaid either by new property taxes or by getting a cut of arena revenue.
That’s … perfectly reasonable? That second item would be, in fact, required by law if this were Seattle, and in any event “We’re splitting the costs, let’s split the revenues” is a sensible proposal in any world other than the sports one.
The Flames owners, according to Metro, “balked” at this, and asked for an exemption from property taxes on top. That wasn’t going to get a deal done. So while the talks may have been “spectacularly unproductive,” that doesn’t appear to have been the fault of Mayor Naheed Nenshi or the council.
Declaring an impasse now is clearly meant to put pressure on Nenshi with elections coming up; already two of his opponents in the upcoming election tried to take advantage by saying how they think a new Flames arena is important, though only at the right price, which is actually what the mayor himself is saying, so. There’s also, as Maclean’s columnist Jason Markusoff points out, an element of “the Edmonton Oilers got a new arena, we deserve one too”: Flames CEO Ken King grumbled yesterday, “If we can beat the guys up north—apparently we can’t beat them on the building front, but maybe we can beat them on the ice.” This will not go over well, predicts Markusoff:
A large portion of the Calgary populace will view ceding the arena-building race to Edmonton not as a loss, but as a win: that Cowtown didn’t acquiesce to its hockey barons’ demands. Until the Flames owners can appreciate that, they’ll be stuck in their current saddle.
Maybe? Certainly the mayor and the council’s first reaction — we made a perfectly good offer, here, look at it — doesn’t smack of panic, but we’ll see where things head as the election campaign continues. Ham-fisted threats and unintentionally hilarious self-promotion are kind of Flames exec trademarks by now, but there is that old saying about blind pigs and acorns.