Ot­tawa won’t get in­volved in Flames arena fight


Canada’s min­is­ter of sport has fond mem­o­ries of when the Cal­gary Flames re­lo­cated to the city from At­lanta in 1980.

“I re­mem­ber do­ing a pro­ject on the Cal­gary Flames com­ing to Cal­gary when I was at Jerry Potts elementary school,” Kent Hehr, who grew up in Cal­gary, said Thurs­day when he was in the city.

“Me and my buddy Trent, we had a scrap­book. We built a lit­tle sta­dium. That sense of ex­cite­ment that kids still have to­day around the Flames ex­ists and it puts us on the map as a com­mu­nity.”

But Hehr, Cal­gary’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau’s cab­i­net, wasn’t will­ing to go be­yond a stroll down mem­ory lane when it comes to the Na­tional Hockey League team’s quest for a new arena.

Hehr said he doesn’t see a role for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, even in a me­di­a­tion ca­pac­ity, but un­der­stands the im­por­tance of the team to the city.

“I un­der­stand they add value and they add en­joy­ment and my con­stituents feel con­nected.”

Ear­lier this week, the Flames said they were pulling out of arena talks with the city. Team president Ken King said the team’s own­ers be­lieve they can’t make a deal be­cause ne­go­ti­a­tions have been un­pro­duc­tive. But they are com­mit­ted to keep­ing the Flames in Cal­gary for now, he added.

Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi said the city re­mains at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble for a new arena and is ready to ne­go­ti­ate in good faith.

“I am cer­tain the mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment has the abil­ity and skills to deal with this at the lo­cal level,” Hehr said Thurs­day. “Mr. King and Mr. Nen­shi are both very ca­pa­ble, hon­ourable peo­ple who are go­ing to con­tinue, hope­fully, to work to­gether for a long, long time.”

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

The team’s own­ers of­fered $200 mil­lion of their money and pro­posed a $250-mil­lion loan to be re­paid through a ticket sur­charge, with the city cov­er­ing the rest.

Coun­cil dis­agreed with the Cal­gar­yNext price tag, say­ing the pro­ject would cost about $1.8 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 ex­ist­ing 34-year-old Sco­tia­bank Sad­dle­dome in a planned arts and en­ter­tain­ment dis­trict on the down­town east side.

Hehr said he will con­tinue to watch the sit­u­a­tion with in­ter­est and re­mains op­ti­mistic.

“I’m cer­tain that peo­ple are go­ing to con­tinue to work to­gether to try and build a bet­ter com­mu­nity and have pro­fes­sional sports be­ing part of the mix here.”

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