Calgary council forms new committee for Flames arena talks, without pesky mayor who knew how this stuff worked

As rumored last month, the Calgary city council has gone ahead and formed a committee to reopen talks with the Flames owners on a new arena, a committee that will edge Mayor Naheed Nenshi out of a central role in negotiations. Nenshi, though, either thinks the rest of the council will hold a hard line or is just making a brave face of it, because he had this to say:

“I think hitting the reset button is a good idea, but the reset button has to be hit on both sides,” Nenshi said.

“Given that we were not the party that walked away I think it’s important everyone come back to the table and maybe with new faces around the table as well.”…

“It will be hard for the committee to convince me to put a lot more public money on the table,” Nenshi said Monday. “I think it will be hard for the committee to convince council to do that.

“I think it will be hard for the committee to convince Calgarians to do that.”

The concern here, ultimately, isn’t who does the negotiating on behalf of Calgary residents, it’s whether they give away the store. Nenshi still wields influence on the council, and obviously still has the bully pulpit to embarrass all concerned with facts, so it’s not like the Flames owners have carte blanche now. Still, this is something to keep an eye on, to be sure that it’s genuinely the Calgary council telling the team, “We’re willing to talk so long as you’re not asking us to give away the store,” and not “Okay, we pushed out the guy who understood economics, when do you want us to jump and how high?”

3 comments on “Calgary council forms new committee for Flames arena talks, without pesky mayor who knew how this stuff worked

  1. In other arena news:

    The Deputy Commissioner said there was a conference call Friday about the Coyotes’ arena situation and there are three possible options for an arena in the East Valley region.

    “There continues to be a high level of confidence that they can get something done,” Deputy Commissioner Daly said. “A lot of different moving pieces, but a lot of communities in the Valley are interested in helping them out. They don’t have anything done yet, but they’re working on it.”

  2. The problem with this “new blood” argument should be obvious.

    The new committee (which I’m guessing will be negotiating with the same Flames execs, including carpetbagger King) will create for themselves the right to negotiate a ‘turn key’ deal with the Flames which will be forwarded to the full council at the last possible minute (or perhaps not forwarded at all) with the suffix that “if this deal is not approved as negotiated we will lose the whole thing”.

    Effectively, Calgary city council has just created a subcommittee and handed it the very gun it will point at the council’s head when the artificial deadline the committee will surely agree to arrives.

    I have great respect for Nenshi and some of his councillors. Unless this committee uses an open process with regular (and public) updates to the full council, however, this step is a gigantic mistake.

    • As a citizen of Calgary, I am really dreading where this is going. It bothers me that the city had to take the initiative to restart talks, when it was the Flames who walked away from the table. And you are right, I can see this committee coming back with some ridiculous offer to city from the Flames with the tag “this is the last hope for an arena deal. After this, there is nothing”.

      I don’t even understand why the city is in such a hurry to restart negotiations. The Flames have said they will continue to operate in the Saddledome “for as long as financially possible”. And if there is anything the Arizona Coyotes saga has taught me, it’s that the threat of relocation is meaningless. The NHL has too many markets, and there is just nowhere else to go. And even if the Flames started being more vocal with relocation threats, there are financially far worse teams that would have to move first (Arizona, Carolina, Florida).