Too soon to nix CalgaryNext, says mayoral hopeful Andre Chabot

Calgary mayoral hopeful Andre Chabot cautioned against writing off the massive CalgaryNext arena and stadium project at a public debate on Wednesday night.

Councillor was taking part in public debate at U of C on massive arena and stadium proposal

Ken King, president and CEO of the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, says the CalgaryNext project isn't dead yet, and mayoral hopeful Andre Chabot agrees. (Calgary Flames)

Calgary mayoral hopeful Andre Chabot cautioned against writing off the massive CalgaryNext arena and stadium project at a public debate on Wednesday night. 

The University of Calgary's debate society hosted the event to hear different views about the contentious proposal to build a new NHL arena, CFL stadium and fieldhouse in the West Village.

A comment by Mayor Naheed Nenshi earlier this week saying the project was dead provoked a rebuttal from Ken King, president of and CEO of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, which owns all of Calgary's major sports franchises. 

King said the proposal isn't dead, it's just resting.

Up to $1.8B

Speaking at the debate, Chabot — running to unseat Nenshi as mayor in October — said the project shouldn't be dismissed yet.

"If you look at the conceptual design of the project, I don't think anybody would deny that it is a very visionary sort of a structure," he said.

Coun. Andre Chabot took part in a debate at the University of Calgary Wednesday night about the CalgaryNext arena proposal. (CBC)

"The thing I like about debates like this is it opens us up to new ideas and new suggestions and I'm always open to hearing other peoples' opinions and trying to weigh those into ultimately making a decision that's going to be in the best interest of Calgarians."

The estimated cost of the CalgaryNext project ranges from $1.3 billion to $1.8 billion, including cleanup of the creosote-contaminated land along the Bow River west of downtown. 

"If you look at it simply from the perspective of, would this be beneficial for the city, absolutely it would be beneficial for the city," Chabot said.

Public versus private money

He said the real question is how the project would be financed, particularly the whether public money would be used to develop the facility.

The anticipated price tag for CalgaryNext convinced council to look at a Plan B — build a new arena in Victoria Park near the current Saddledome, refurbish McMahon Stadium and build a new fieldhouse at Foothills Athletic Park.

Debate Organizer Frank Finley says for many the project comes down to economic benefit versus investing public money.

"They actually like to see people discussing the points as to whether something is a good idea or bad idea right in front of them," he said.

"It's a bit different than city council where you feel it's a bit behind closed doors, even if you can go and watch, most people don't."