A new Flames arena is back under consideration in Calgary, as the City Council votes 12-3 to reopen talks with Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp. on a new NHL arena and new fieldhouse for CFL football.
The plan, CalgaryNEXT, had appeared to be dead after city staff estimated the cost of the project to be $1.8 billion — more than the $890 million cost projection from Calgary Sports and Entertainment. But Calgary Sports and Entertainment officials asked for city reconsideration, saying the city staff included costs tangential to the actual sports facility and miscalculated some other costs, such as the cleanup of a creosote site on the projected location. Add everything together, and an apples-to-apples comparison now pegs the project cost at $1.3 billion.
The decision to move forward on discussions of the project, which Scotiabank Saddledome and McMahon Stadium replacements on the west side of downtown Calgary, comes at a time when Calgary Sports and Entertainment is also preparing a lower-cost Plan B. Under the original plan, the arena would seat 20,000 and designed both for pro hockey and concerts. The fieldhouse would seat 30,000 for Calgary Stampeders game, with a full field both for CFL and FIFA soccer. Plan B calls for a new arena (Scotiabank Saddledome opened in 1983 and is showing its age), but this one on the Calgary Stampede grounds, as well as renovations to the Stampeders home, McMahon Stadium. From the Calgary Sun:
Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters the city and King can fight about the difference in math but at the end of the day, “even their best case scenario is still a lot of money that we don’t have.”
“$1.3 billion would still make it more expensive than the West LRT, it would still make it the most expensive public works project in Calgary history,” Nenshi said.
According to the initial pitch, CalgaryNEXT would be paid for with a public-private funding scheme that would see the ownership group kick in $200 million, the city contribute $200 million for the field house, $240 raised through a community revitalization levy (which generates revenue on future property tax growth) and the final $250 million borrowed and paid down through a ticket surcharge.
One thing is certain: there seems to be consensus that Scotiabank Saddledome needs to be replaced. The issue is where and to what extent a new arena will fit into potential development.
All dollar amounts in this article are based on the Canadian dollar.