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City of Calgary, Flames start negotiating again on a new arena

Negotiations will begin again for a new sports, arts and entertainment building after a deal agreed upon in 2019 collapsed late last year.
The city and Calgary Flames owners confirmed Wednesday negotiations will begin again for a new sports, arts and entertainment building. The proposed arena is shown in this updated handout image.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Calgary Flames *MANDATORY CREDIT*

CALGARY — Arena talks in Calgary are back on.

The city and Calgary Flames owners confirmed Wednesday negotiations will begin again for a new sports, arts and entertainment building.

Their previous deal agreed upon in 2019 collapsed late last year when the estimated cost of the project rose and the Flames withdrew.

Shovels were scheduled to hit the ground this year for a 19,000-seat hockey arena and concert venue to replace the Saddledome, which has been the home of the Flames for 39 years.

The initial estimate of a new arena was $550 million split between the two parties, but that figure increased to $634 million. The Flames withdrew because of increased financial risk.

"The event centre has dominated a lot of the city's conversations for several years and there's a lot of anticipation now that we can announce that Calgary Sports and Entertainment has re-entered into these formal discussion with the city," Coun. Courtney Walcott said Wednesday in an events committee meeting.

"This opportunity, it's immense."

The Saddledome is the second-oldest NHL arena behind New York's Madison Square Garden.

City council voted in January to recruit a third party to get the project back on track.

Commercial real estate moguls John Fisher, Guy Huntingford and Phil Swift were tasked with determining whether the Flames still wanted to partner on an arena, or if the city should look for other potential partners.

Their work has concluded.

“We appreciate the efforts of Guy, John and Phil,” Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation president and CEO John Bean said in a statement released by the city.

“All parties share a collective desire to see a new event centre constructed in Calgary. We look forward to discussions with the city to see if we can find an acceptable path forward.”

The city will be represented in negotiations by CAA ICON, which has managed the development of other arena and stadiums, including Edmonton's Rogers Place that opened in 2016.

The city envisions the proposed event centre on a parcel of land north of the Saddledome as the heart of a larger revitalized commercial and residential district on the downtown's east side near the Stampede grounds.

Wednesday's joint statement from the city and the Flames said they've agreed "time is of the essence to reach a formal agreement on a new event centre" while ensuring they take the time necessary to reach an agreement that meets the needs of the city and the team.

Just weeks after the Flames and the city agreed to an amended deal in July, 2021, it fell apart when the city added an additional $19 million in roadwork and climate mitigation to the project, and wanted the Flames to pay for $10 million of that.

Bean said then that not only would CSEC's share be $346.5 million compared to the city's $287.5 million, but the Flames bore the risk of rising costs.

CSEC also owns the American Hockey League's Wranglers, Western Hockey League's Hitmen, Canadian Football League's Stampeders and National Lacrosse League's Roughnecks.

After relocating from Stockton, Calif., for this season, the Wranglers join the Flames, Hitmen and Roughnecks in playing home games out of the Saddledome.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2022.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press