Talks between city, Flames on a new arena underway

Negotiations on a new arena between the City of Calgary and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation are underway.

After months of silence, talks are not only on but said to be 'productive'

Negotiations between the city and the Flames ownership on a new arena fell apart in 2017. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Negotiations on a new arena between the City of Calgary and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation are underway.

"We do not have a deal today," said Coun. Jeff Davison. "When we will have one, or if we will have one, is totally up in the air."

It's an unexpected development.

The event centre assessment committee that is chaired by Davison last met in March. At that time, it had formed a sub-committee to determine who should negotiate on the city's behalf with the Flames ownership.

After cancelling its monthly public meetings in April, May and June, the committee met Thursday with the announcement of not only who is on the negotiating team but also the fact that its meetings with the Flames ownership are well underway.

The city is being represented in the negotiations by lawyer Barry Munro; the CEO of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, Michael Brown; and by the acting city manager, Glenda Cole.

No details of the talks or what has been accomplished were released.

But Davison said it's going well.

"What we can tell the public today is that discussions are productive but they are not complete," said Davison. 

"We can't give an exact date as to when we'll be back with any information."

The negotiating team will follow council's direction on a potential arena deal.

Those conditions include that any public money must be used for public benefit, and that a new arena be viable on its own while being a catalyst for the redevelopment of east Victoria Park.

This conceptual drawing of a new hockey arena in Victoria Park is from the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, which owns the Calgary Flames. It shows what a proposed arena would look like at 12th Avenue and Fourth Street S.E. (Rossetti/Calgary Flames)

The negotiations are private, but ultimately any deal will be made public and there must be a vote by city council.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who attended Thursday's committee meeting, said the talks are going better and are further along than the last time the city talked with the Flames about a replacement for the Saddledome.

There's no timeframe for the negotiations, which he described as complex.

'Looking for a win-win'

"There's a lot of stuff still on the table and so things could move very very quickly or they could slow down," said Nenshi. "Everyone's at the table and everyone has everyone else's best interests at heart and people are really looking for a win-win."

They're talking about a new event centre, which would not only be the new home of the Calgary Flames but would form a key part of a new cultural and entertainment district in Victoria Park.

Other key elements include the $500-million expansion of the BMO Centre at Stampede Park and a revitalization of Arts Commons.

The arena is estimated to cost $550-600 million.

The committee has heard that the new arena would have about 18,000 seats and include retail development, a community rink and underground parking.

A site in Victoria Park — between 12th and 14th Avenues and between Olympic Way and Fifth Street Southeast — is the preferred location for the building.