It’s generally not a good idea to base your perceptions of a major development plan on which of two elected officials has the best sound bite, but in the case of the proposed new Calgary Flames arena, it’s really hard not to when these are both contained in the same article:
“What I’ve been saying to proponents of the arena is, ‘Don’t sell me magic beans,’” [Calgary Mayor Naheed] Nenshi said in a year-end interview with Postmedia. “Just be really honest: This is the amount of public financing that it’s going to take to build this and this is why we think it’s a good investment in the city.”
Some at the city, including the mayor, have questioned what sort of private development is likely to be spurred in an environment where office towers are already sitting empty and there exists an oversupply of condos and apartments.
“I dispute that a little bit, [that] putting an office tower there isn’t a good thing when we have vacancy,” says [city councillor Jeff] Davison. “It’s absolutely a good thing, because it’s a totally different model than what we have now. And what we’ve learned is that in this downturn, the model we have right now doesn’t work.”
Don’t sell me magic beans vs. we should build an arena in order to spark the creation of office towers in the middle of an office tower glut because not building arenas hasn’t worked great so why not try something different? is a first-round rhetorical knockout even before we get into the actual numbers involved. Which are, if you’re scoring at home: A new arena could now cost $600 million plus the price of land, which is a higher price tag than in the last plan that the Calgary city manager projected the city would lose $1.2 billion on (though that one would have included a CFL stadium as well).
The Calgary council is set to vote on January 28 on which projects to dedicate public funds to, and both Davison and Nenshi have votes. Expect a whole lot of public lobbying in the next four weeks, in other words, which means lots more opportunities for fun sound bite wars.