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Clock Ticking on New Calgary Flames Arena Comments

Public comment on a new Calgary Flames (NHL) arena is set to close tomorrow, with the full City Council set to vote on the proposed downtown facility next Tuesday.

The City Council is set to vote next Tuesday on the proposed arena after a relatively short comment period. Critics say the comment period is too short and should be extended, but arena advocates say the proposed arena has been discussed for years and that given the modern nature of social media and email, constituents can provide instant feedback. From the Calgary Herald:

Coun. Jeff Davison, chair of the city’s event centre assessment committee, said council could spend the next week talking to Calgarians about the proposed deal before the vote on July 29.

“We don’t need a $2-million engagement plan to take feedback in,” Davison said. “Obviously, people have access to councillors’ emails and phone and social media channels. You can always submit letters through the clerk’s department, which would be accepted as part of the corporate record. So there’s many, many ways that the public can let us know how they feel about this.”

Current plans call for the new arena to cost C$550 million, with the Flames and the city to each pay C$275 million toward construction costs. The arena would fall under city ownership, while the city would receive proceeds from a ticket tax and a share of naming-rights revenue. In addition, the Flames would assume operations and maintenance costs over the course of a 35-year lease with the city and also receive an option to buy two city-owned land parcels next to the arena.

One other concern: there’s no final design for the arena, just conceptual plans. This isn’t unusual, however, and while there’s a danger the end cost could exceed estimates, Calgary officials expressed confidence that a final design will fit the current C$550-million budget. From the Calgary Sun:

An established budget and a handful of renderings are currently before council, but the body responsible for design said actual plans won’t be available until early next year.

“You’ll see plans — more than renderings, actual plans — in the new year,” said Michael Brown, president and CEO of the Calgary Municipal Land Corp.

“Often times people will do the pretty pictures and then have people choose the pretty pictures, but the way we choose to do it as a corporation is the reverse. We establish a budget price and then we design within that budget price.”

The new arena would replace the Saddledome, which opened in 1983, and is currently the second-oldest facility among full-time NHL arenas.

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