READY FOR PLAN B?
City, Flames to keep talking
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.