CalgaryNEXT arena plan gets support in unlikely quarters

The proposed $900-million sports multiplex is garnering some unexpected supporters.

Business owners near Saddledome, McMahon Stadium unfazed by possible loss of customers

Ken King presents his plan for a comprehensive sportsplex for Calgary, including a new stadium for the Flames. 7:19

The proposed sports multiplex is garnering some unexpected supporters.

The plan would see both Calgary's NHL and CFL teams move from their current homes into a joint $900-million arena, stadium and fieldhouse facility in the West Village.

But Nick Petros, who owns Nick's Steakhouse and Pizza across the street from McMahon Stadium, isn't fazed by the prospect of the Stampeders no longer playing there.

"This is fantastic ... I'm excited anyways. I just hope I'll be here long enough to see it," he said.

Petros remembers when a milk can sat at the front of his restaurant in the '80s to raise money for SOS — Save Our Stamps.

This is a rendering of the new Flames sporting complex. (Calgary Flames)

Members of the team still come in for pre-game suppers. Those suppers might end, but Petros still wants to see a new stadium built.

"I think it will be good for the organization, good for the city of Calgary. They need new facilities. And I was hoping they'd go across the street, but they're not, so we'll support them any way, shape or form anyways."

Petros said with 10 Stampeder home games a season, the business is appreciated — but it won't make or break the restaurant.

Darren Moulds, who owns Vagabond, a restaurant across from the Saddledome, is similarly sanguine about the Flames possibly moving to a new home.

The proposed new sportsplex in Calgary's West Village will completely transform the area and provide the impetus to clean up land long contaminated by creosote, says Flames CEO Ken King. (Calgary Flames)

"It's a huge impact, I mean obviously, anytime there's a Flames game, Roughnecks game, concert.… It's always going to be a big influx of people pre-event and post-event," he said.

But Mould says he always knew a new arena built elsewhere was a possibility. To fill the void, he hopes that as several new condo towers go up around his business, the residents will be his new patrons. 

"The Guardian towers, they're opening up. People are moving in, so that adds an easy 1,000 residents over the next little while. The Orchard towers, they're selling across the street over there, and the community will keep growing."

'Nobody's giving us money'

Meantime, there are questions about the funding model proposed by Flames CEO Ken King.

The plan calls for the project to be funded through a $250-million ticket tax, a $240-million community levy, $200 million from team ownership and $200 million from city taxpayers for the fieldhouse.

Darren Moulds, who owns Vagabond, a restaurant across from the Saddledome, isn't too worried about the Flames possibly moving to a new home. (CBC)

Paige MacPherson, Alberta Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, says pro sports arenas should be paid for by the team.

"So I think that the fundamental question that we have to ask here is what do we pay taxes for? Do we pay taxes to subsidize multi-million-dollar franchises and industries or billionaire owners, or do we pay taxes for the necessary services we all need?"

King told CBC News it's important to note, the Flames organization will not own the new facility.

"Nobody's giving us money to take something away. What we're doing is we're contributing money — $450 million of it — in order to fund a share of a public facility," he said.

"I think that's an unbelievably generous notion on behalf of the owners,"

In a statement on Tuesday, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city does need a fieldhouse — but there's no money in the budget for it right now.

"They've already decided that it's the number one recreation priority in the city, and that follows quickly by saying it's unfunded," King said.

"But perhaps by putting it together in a worthwhile project like this, it can move up the priority list."

Premier open to requests

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley also weighed in Wednesday on the issue of who will pay to decontaminate the creosote-soaked site west of downtown.

"And there's no precedent of the province stepping in to pay the costs of remediation when a polluter has contaminated a piece of property," she said.

"As I've said before, people make requests, we will consider them. But it's not an immediate thing that we would say, 'Oh yes, we've done it a million times before, we'd do it here too.'"

Notley says the province has not been approached by the ownership group about any of the details of the project.

The premier also said she doesn't want people in Edmonton to think her government will spend money on an arena for Calgary while the new project in the capital got none.

She says her government will keep an open mind, but there are more pressing priorities for money.

"Like the Tom Baker centre, like the ring road, like flood diversion investments, some, you know, key, key pieces," she said.

"So I would say to the people of Edmonton that they shouldn't be too concerned that we've suddenly announced Calgary's getting funding because that's not what's happened ."


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