Calgary wants to keep talk­ing to Flames

Kingston Whig-Standard - - SPORTS - DONNA SPENCER Globe and Mail

Calgary mayor Na­heed Nen­shi says the city re­mains at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble for a new NHL arena even though the Flames have de­clared they’ve pulled out of talks.

The NHL team is frus­trated with “spec­tac­u­larly un­pro­duc­tive” ne­go­ti­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to team pres­i­dent Ken King.

“We re­main ready to ne­go­ti­ate in good faith,” the mayor coun­tered Wed­nes­day.

“Coun­cil un­der­stands the im­por­tance of the Flames to this city, coun­cil un­der­stands the im­por­tance of hav­ing the Flames down­town.

“We worked very hard to come up with a deal that makes sense in this econ­omy with­out im­pact­ing peo­ple’s taxes that nonethe­less par­tic­i­pates in both the risk and the up­side.”

The ini­tial $890-mil­lion Cal­gar­yNext project the Flames pitched two years ago in­cluded an arena, foot­ball sta­dium and field house built on the west side of down­town.

The Flames’ own­ers of­fered $200 mil­lion of their money and pro­posed a $250-mil­lion loan be re­paid through a ticket sur­charge, with tax­pay­ers foot­ing the rest of the bill.

Coun­cil dis­agreed with the Cal­gar­yNext price tag say­ing the project would cost ap­prox­i­mately $1.3 bil­lion when cleanup of cre­osote-soaked soil was in­cluded.

Cal­gar­yNext moved to the back burner when coun­cil showed more en­thu­si­asm for build­ing an arena closer to the 34-yearold Sco­tia­bank Sad­dle­dome in a planned arts and en­ter­tain­ment dis­trict on the down­town east side.

Coun­cil­lors voted Wed­nes­day to al­low Nen­shi to re­lease fi­nan­cial de­tails on the “Vic­to­ria Park” op­tion, which the mayor said he would do soon.

The re­ported Wed­nes­day the city of­fered to pay a third of the cost, but that money had to be paid back.

“I can tell you that what has been re­ported — the one-third, one-third, one-third deal — as the ba­sis, but there’s a lot more to it than that,” Nen­shi said.

“I can tell you the city has a very fair of­fer on the ta­ble. One I think many Cal­gar­i­ans, most Cal­gar­i­ans will see as em­i­nently rea­son­able. There is an­other of­fer on the ta­ble that most Cal­gar­i­ans will see as em­i­nently un­rea­son­able.”

King said the Flames’ con­tri­bu­tion to the Vic­to­ria Park op­tion was “sub­stan­tial.”

“You know the kind of com­mit­ment we were pre­pared to make to the west vil­lage, the kind of ra­tio that was,” he said Tues­day.

“It wouldn’t come as any sur­prise to any­body to un­der­stand it might be a sim­i­lar ra­tio on this side.”

While King de­nied mak­ing the arena an elec­tion is­sue, the tim­ing of the team’s bomb­shell seems de­signed to turn up on the heat on the mayor and coun­cil­lors ahead of the Oct. 19 civic elec­tion.

“If you’re try­ing to in­flu­ence the gen­eral pub­lic, I think put­ting that on the ta­ble right in the midst of the elec­tion ul­ti­mately can achieve bet­ter re­sults from their per­spec­tive,” said Coun. An­dre Chabot, who is one of nine can­di­dates run­ning for mayor.

Nen­shi, who seeks a third term, has at times down­played the eco­nomic ben­e­fit of a new arena, which cre­ated ten­sion be­tween the NHL team and the mayor.

The trig­ger for the Flames’ with­drawal seemed to be Nen­shi speak­ing to me­dia ear­lier this week about how an arena fits into his vi­sion of re­vi­tal­iz­ing an area known as the East Vil­lage.

King said af­ter he talked with Nen­shi’s chief of staff Mon­day, the Flames own­ers met with NHL com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman to in­form him they were pulling the plug on talks.

“The mayor’s cam­paign seemed to kick off with a vi­sion for Vic­to­ria Park,” King said.

“I wanted to re­ally un­der­stand if in fact his an­nounce­ment of the vi­sion and what they deem to be a fair deal was maybe the sig­nal they were pre­pared to do our deal. It was made very clear to me that they were not.”

The Flames play­ers re­port for phys­i­cal test­ing Thurs­day. King said the team is not leav­ing Calgary any time soon de­spite no firm agree­ment on a new build­ing.

For­mer fed­eral cab­i­net min­is­ter Jason Ken­ney, who is run­ning for the lead­er­ship of the prov­ince’s United Con­ser­va­tive party, urged both sides to con­tinue talk­ing.

“I would, like most Cal­gar­i­ans, en­cour­age both sides to sit down and dis­cuss this in good faith,” Ken­ney said.

“None of us want to jeop­ar­dize the pres­ence of an NHL team here be­cause two can’t sit down and have a grown-up con­ver­sa­tion in good faith.”

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

The Sco­tia­bank Sad­dle­dome in Calgary is seen in Fe­bru­ary. Calgary mayor Na­heed Nen­shi says the city is still pre­pared to ne­go­ti­ate with the Flames, even though the team has pulled out of talks for a new arena.

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