New home for Calgary Flames estimated to cost up to $600 million

By The Canadian Press
December 14, 2018 - 6:00pm

CALGARY — An event centre in Calgary that would also be the new home of the NHL's Flames is estimated to cost between $550 million and $600 million.

A city council event centre committee was presented that number Friday by the president and chief executive officer of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation.

"I'm very confident we can deliver a really good building for the citizens of Calgary as well as for Calgary Sports and Entertainment for that number," Michael Brown told the committee.

"It's a strong number. It has respectable contingency in it. What's not included is the cost of land associated with it."

The city and the Flames are not yet talking on who will pay how much for a building to replace the 35-year-old Saddledome.

"We're not negotiating at all at this point," said Coun. Jeff Davison, who chairs the committee. "We've had very early days, high-level conversations with the Flames.

"Their expectation is that we bring the vision forward for the entertainment and cultural district and that's what we're doing."

The event centre, with a capacity of roughly 20,000 for sports, would be at the heart of a larger revitalized commercial and residential district east of downtown.

"We believe the city needs a win," Davison said. "I firmly believe the city needs a great vision and that's what we're proposing in this district."

Council voted in October to try to re-engage CSEC, which also owns the WHL's Hitmen, the CFL's Stampeders and the NLL's Roughnecks, in talks.

Negotiations broke off over a year ago when Flames president Ken King called discussions "spectacularly unproductive.''

But the Flames gave CMLC access to work done by an architect, which was in turn reviewed by two large contractors within the city, according to Brown.

"What Calgary Sports and Entertainment did for us is allow us to get access to some of their design information," Brown explained.

The vision for the event centre is for it to be multi-purpose with portions that can be sectioned off for art installations and concerts of different types, including Cirque du Soleil, as well as sports.

"You don't necessarily have to book out the entire building to take advantage of it," Brown explained.

"If you want to have something in the Saddledome, you're booking the Saddledome. For a true event centre, you can do many different things with it."

Before talks broke off, CSEC had offered to put $275-million into a new $500-million arena just north of the Saddledome, and said the city should raise the remaining $225-million through a community revitalization levy.

A CRL allows the city to divert property taxes from new development that would theoretically spring up around a new arena into paying for it.

The city had proposed a three-way split on the cost of a $555-million arena, with the city and the Flames each paying $185-million and the remaining third raised from a surcharge on tickets.

The location on the east side of the downtown came after an $890-million CalgaryNext project pitched by the Flames in 2015. That concept included a hockey arena, football stadium and field house west of downtown.

Flames owners offered $200-million of their own money and proposed a $250-million loan be repaid through a ticket surcharge.

CalgaryNext was put on the back burner when council determined the project would cost as much as $1.8-billion, due to remediation of creosote-soaked soil on site.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

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