Public will likely be shut out of Calgary arena talks: Nenshi

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says until the city can reach a deal with the Calgary Flames on a new arena, he's not sure there will be a public consultation on it.

Mayor says until city can reach deal with Flames on new arena, he's not sure there will be public consultation

Mayor naheed Nenshi says Calgarians likely won't have much input into negotiations around a new arena in Victoria Park until a possible deal is reached. (Left photo: City of Calgary, right photo: CBC)

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says if the city can reach a deal with the Calgary Flames on a new arena, he's not sure there will be a public consultation on it.

The city has yet to formally restart discussions with the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation on an arena to replace the Saddledome.

Nenshi says his key criteria for any deal is that there should be public benefit for any public dollars put into a new arena.

He says given this would be just one building, it's not the same as bidding on the Olympics, so he doubts there would even be open houses held.

"I'm not sure that there's much space for public consultation because ultimately, it's one project," he said.

"We don't do a ton of public consultation on an interchange, for example, but I think it would be very interesting to hear from the public on what they think the right amount of public participation in this should be, and certainly there will be an opportunity for the public to have their voices heard but it might not happen until there's something on the table."

This rendering of a proposed arena in Victoria Park shows how it would fit into the streetscape that the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation is planning on Olympic Way. This is the view from 14th Avenue S.E. (Rossetti/Calgary Flames)

The city has released projections that a new arena in Victoria Park could cost more than $600 million but it would likely be a partnership paying for it.

Nenshi says an arena funding deal remains hypothetical as he has not been part of any conversations on a new building.

City council's events centre committee was told at a meeting last week the city has three options to pay for major projects like an arena.

City manager Jeff Fielding said the city has $300 million in cash that's available.

It can take on new debt for a major new community project.

The city can also use money from the community revitalization levy which comes from tax revenues generated in the Rivers District, which includes Victoria Park.

Talk about a new arena to replace the Scotiabank Saddledome, which opened in 1983, has been swirling for years.

Negotiations between the city and the Flames ownership on a new arena fell apart in 2017. 

The head of CSEC, Ken King, said at that time the city's contribution toward a $550-million arena was far short of what the team's owners wanted.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has referred to the Saddledome as a "grand old building" with a great roofline but has also called it an "old, antiquated, inefficient building."

With files from Scott Dippel


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