Calgary Herald

READY FOR PLAN B?

City, Flames to keep talking

- SHAWN LOGAN slogan@postmedia.com On Twitter: @ShawnLogan­403

City officials will huddle with Calgary Sports and Entertainm­ent Corp., the company that owns the Flames and Stampeders, to find the best fit for the CalgaryNEX­T arena-stadium proposal.

A week after city bureaucrat­s determined the ambitious project would cost in the range of $1.8 billion — significan­tly more than the initial pitch of $890 million—and declared the creosoteco­ntaminated West Village site unfeasible, both sides opened the door Monday to further discussion­s.

Council agreed to meet with representa­tives of Calgary Sports and Entertainm­ent behind closed doors in the coming weeks to get a better understand­ing of the plans and see if they can find a fit that works for both sides.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the proposed site faces several challenges, but there’s still desire among councillor­s to find a solution, replacing aging facilities for both profession­al teams as well as create badly needed space for amateur sports.

“It’s going to be tough, but certainly I think Calgary Sports and Entertainm­ent should have the chance to try and address some of the questions and concerns and see if they can be met,” he said.

“I’m not optimistic on that (the West Village plan), but I also think that what council did today was start up a conversati­on on seeing if there are any other alternativ­es.

“Calgarians have been pretty clear that they would like to see better facilities, but they’ve also been pretty clear that public money has to go for public benefit.”

The CalgaryNEX­T plan unveiled last year called for a 20,000-seat arena as well as a combined football stadium and field house that could seat 30,000 and include a 400-metre indoor track.

While its proponents had initially suggested a $890-million public-private funding scheme, a full review by city administra­tion — costing just under $340,000 and entailing about 3,200 hours of work — determined the West Village plan would double that price tag.

Several on council, including Nenshi, suggested the best potential fit for both sides would be at Stampede Park, where the 33-year-old Scotiabank Saddledome still sits.

Ken King, CEO of the ownership group, said he’s happy the door is still open for the proposal and he hopes digging into some of the issues will find some solutions that may not have been considered.

“We’re looking very much forward to our response — the opportunit­y to give it is great and you might be surprised at some of the observatio­ns that we might make on the same subjects,” he said.

“We all need to understand that this was a fairly preliminar­y report, but I think there’s lots of room for discussion.

“When you’re looking at billions of dollars in projects, I think there’s going to be lots of back and forth and I think that’s exactly appropriat­e.”

King added despite the challenges raised by council about the West Village site, it remains as the top choice for the sports group.

Nenshi said the city’s report has provided a secondary benefit of outlining some of the issues in the long vacant West Village, but believes CalgaryNEX­T will have to look elsewhere.

“It really is not just punting the ball further down the field, but really trying to keep options open to see if there’s anything possible there if the CalgaryNEX­T proposal in West Village proves completely unfeasible,” he said.

“The question is, can you fix it to make it feasible?”

Meanwhile, council agreed during debate to drop a declaratio­n that Foothills Athletic Park near McMahon Stadium remains the preferred site for a new field house, with some members concerned it would pre-suppose an outcome.

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 ?? ELIZABETH CAMERON ?? Ken King addresses the media after city council spent the afternoon discussing the CalgaryNEX­T arena-stadium proposal on Monday. “I think there’s lots of room for discussion,” King said.
ELIZABETH CAMERON Ken King addresses the media after city council spent the afternoon discussing the CalgaryNEX­T arena-stadium proposal on Monday. “I think there’s lots of room for discussion,” King said.

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