Calgarians support city involvement in new arena — as long as it doesn't raise taxes: poll

The survey found 60 per cent of citizens would be OK with the city supporting a new arena with land or money from savings, but only 50 per cent supported the idea of the city providing a loan to build it.

Group of 8 city councillors used their city communications budgets to commission $21K poll

Eight city councillors commissioned a poll to see how Calgarians feel about public dollars being used to replace the Saddledome. (Ed Middleton/CBC)

Most Calgarians would support the city getting involved in the construction of a new arena to replace the Saddledome — as long as it doesn't increase their taxes.

That's the most conclusive finding from a survey commissioned by a group of eight city councillors to gauge public opinion on the topic.

"We see this as not a simple, yes-or-no question," said Coun. Shane Keating, who chaired the group.

"The purpose of this survey was not to ask philosophical questions on whether or not public funds should be used in a new area, rather, we wanted to ask, under what circumstances could Calgarians support a public investment in a new arena."

The survey found 60 per cent of citizens would be OK with the city supporting the construction of a new arena in a manner that would not have an overall impact their tax bills.

That could include a variety of measures, such as providing land for the building or using money from savings.

Respondents were also asked if they'd support the city offering a grant as part of a revenue-sharing arrangement in the new arena. The survey found 53 per cent support for that idea.

And 50 per cent supported the idea of the city providing a loan to build a new arena.

Overall, half of Calgarians felt the city needs a new arena, while 32 per cent said it doesn't and 18 per cent weren't sure.

The release of the survey comes after council voted overwhelming in favour of a so-called 'Plan B' option for a new professional hockey rink in Victoria Park.

The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC), which owns the Calgary Flames and Stampeders, has been pushing for a combined arena-stadium project west of downtown that would provide a new home for its professional hockey and football teams.

Dubbed CalgaryNext, the proposal would have also seen a public fieldhouse incorporated into the stadium component.

A conception of the 'CalgaryNext' proposal for a combined arena and stadium west of downtown. City council has expressed a preference for an arena and event centre project in Victoria Park. (Calgary Flames)

But city council had a host of concerns about that proposal, in particular the amount of public money necessary to construct the facility, finance it and build the related infrastructure needed in the area.

In addition to Keating, the group of city councillors behind the survey includes Ward Sutherland, Joe Magliocca, Jim Stevenson, Ray Jones, Andre Chabot, Diane Colley-Urquhart and Peter Demong.

Polling methodology

The poll was carried out by Mainstreet Research, who surveyed 5,061 Calgarians over landlines or cellphones from April 24 to April 26 using automated, interactive voice-response (IVR) technology.

The responses were then weighted using demographic information from the 2016 Census.

For comparison purposes only, a random sample of this size would yield a margin of error of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The city councillors said they each chipped in $2,600 from their communications budgets to pay for the poll.