Calgary council approves changes to arena deal, design updates

Calgary council has voted in favour of changes to its arena deal with Flames ownership.

New rendering of building, which will seat 18,300, released Wednesday

A rendering shows an updated vision for Calgary's planned new arena. (City of Calgary)

Calgary council has voted in favour of changes to its arena deal with Flames ownership.

On Monday, the public learned that the city and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) had each agreed to pay an additional $12.5 million for the arena, with CSEC covering any additional cost overruns.

It was also announced that the city-owned developer behind the Rivers District will no longer oversee the project and that that duty will now be under CSEC.

On Wednesday, council voted in favour of seven recommendations relating to the updated deal.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said much to his own surprise, the changed deal helps reduce risks for Calgarians.

"Calgary Sports and Entertainment, the Calgary Flames have actually really come very far to ensure that we'll get a good building built and they will be responsible for all cost overruns … that's a very big deal," he told reporters on Wednesday. "We still have the ability to make sure this building is beautiful, that this building will meet the needs of Calgarians."

The arena is projected to cost $608.5 million, which is up from the previous $550 million deal agreed upon in 2019. The city will pay roughly half that amount. 

The design has also since changed and according to an update filed by city manager David Duckworth, there have been improvements to the public realm, architecture and visual design of the project.

There has also been an increase in street-level retail, patron to washroom ratio, improved accessibility and enhanced performance spaces.​

New design

A new rendering of the event centre was released Wednesday. The building's design is expected to be finalized this week. 

The building is slated to have 18,300 seats — around 1,000 fewer than the Saddledome.

The arena will also be smaller than Rogers Place in Edmonton, which is more than 1.1. million square-feet with 18,500 seats.

Plans for the new arena include an updated entertainment district. (City of Calgary)

Council and CSEC will also split the costs of transportation and event management plan for the district and surrounding area that includes signage, automated lane reversals and ride-share infrastructure.

"In that conversation, we also said this is a good time for us to look at the overall management of the traffic, cars, bikes, pedestrians, before and after events," said Nenshi.

That cost, which isn't yet known but could be up to $10 million, includes flood mitigation measures, which are estimated to be $5.4 million.

According to Duckworth, due to greater capacity at the Glenmore reservoir and with Springbank off-stream reservoir upstream on the Elbow, there will be better flood protection than there was in 2013.

Despite CSEC becoming the development manager for the project, council will still have a level of oversight to ensure public interests are maintained, Nenshi said. 

"We have to approve the permits and so on, so we still have the ability to make sure that this building is beautiful, that this building will meet the needs of Calgarians and we'll build the district in the neighbourhoods going forward," said Nenshi.

CSEC president and CEO John Bean said in a release that the corporation is pleased with council's endorsement of amendments for the project.

"Following a fulsome review, this collaborative effort of partners has resulted in a revised agreement which will provide a vital community resource for decades to come," said Bean. 

Construction on the arena is set to start in December this year, with expected completion by August 2024. Details of the updated agreement were posted to the city's website

With files from Scott Dippel