Games blue­print reignites de­bate on Flames arena

New event Cen­tre Could com­bine mid-sized fa­cil­ity And NHL rink

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - EVA FER­GU­SON

Tweaks to Cal­gary’s $5.2-bil­lion Olympic host­ing plan re­vealed this week are al­ready be­ing floated, as city of­fi­cials await con­fir­ma­tion on fund­ing from pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments.

And the big­gest change for a po­ten­tial bid is be­ing touted as a new event cen­tre that com­bines the plan’s pro­posed mid-sized arena with a new NHL arena for the Cal­gary Flames.

“If you’re go­ing to have an event cen­tre, why not have two are­nas com­bined?

“You can save costs, with only one am­mo­nia plant, but then also have two events go­ing on at the same time,” said Jeff Davison, coun­cil­lor for Ward 6.

“The draft plan is just that — a draft. And if there are op­por­tu­ni­ties for cost ef­fi­cien­cies, then we should con­sider them.”

Coun. Shane Keat­ing said he, too, is in favour of ex­plor­ing the com­bi­na­tion.

“Why wouldn’t we look at build­ing that small-medium rink within the event cen­tre, rather than off on its own for a huge amount of money, when we could link things and save money?”

The city’s bid cor­po­ra­tion, Cal­gary 2026, un­veiled its $5.2-bil­lion draft plan Tues­day but only pro­posed two new venues, a field house and a mid-sized arena with 5,000 seats.

But no men­tion was made of a new NHL arena for the Flames.

But Davison, who has been part of on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Flames as part of the new Event Cen­tre As­sess­ment Com­mit­tee since June, is now float­ing this new idea com­bin­ing both mid­sized and NHL-sized are­nas in one cen­tre.

That way, he ex­plained, the larger rink could host NHL games and big-name con­certs, while the smaller venue could host the Cal­gary Rough­necks, the Cal­gary Hit­men or smaller con­certs and other events.

Of the $5.2 bil­lion needed to run a po­ten­tial Cal­gary 2026 Win­ter Olympics, $2 bil­lion will come from ticket rev­enue and cor­po­rate spon­sor­ships, while $3 bil­lion will come from tax­pay­ers.

The pro­posed bid will go to a plebiscite Nov. 13, with hopes that all three lev­els of gov­ern­ment will have al­ready spec­i­fied their con­tri­bu­tions.

While the prov­ince has said it will take up to 30 days to out­line its con­tri­bu­tion, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment also would not pro­vide spe­cific num­bers.

“We have just re­ceived the num­bers last week, so this is a long process and we are cur­rently re­view­ing those num­bers,” said Kirsty Dun­can, fed­eral min­is­ter for sci­ence and sport.

“We know that Cana­di­ans ex­pect our due dili­gence,” she added.

“And we want to make the best de­ci­sion pos­si­ble for Al­ber­tans and for Cana­di­ans.”

Dun­can’s com­ments come one day af­ter is­su­ing a let­ter to Cal­gary city coun­cil, out­lin­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s fund­ing com­mit­ment more specif­i­cally and stat­ing that if Cal­gar­i­ans sup­port the bid in a plebiscite, “our in­vest­ment would match the com­bined pro­vin­cial and mu­nic­i­pal in­vest­ments to the core costs of the event.”

When asked whether that fund­ing

We have just re­ceived the num­bers last week, so this is a long process and we are cur­rently re­view­ing those num­bers.

com­mit­ment would change if the draft plan changed, Dun­can would not spec­ify.

But John Fur­long, CEO and pres­i­dent for the 2010 Van­cou­ver Games, says with the 2026 Games still eight years away, it’s im­por­tant to keep an open mind.

“There’s noth­ing wrong with mak­ing changes along the way. And if new ideas im­prove upon old ideas, that will al­ways be ap­plauded.”

Fur­long said that well af­ter the cit­i­zens of Van­cou­ver and sur­round­ing ar­eas voted two-thirds in favour of the 2010 Games in a plebiscite, the con­cept plan made sev­eral changes, in­clud­ing the re­lo­ca­tion of a tem­po­rary me­dia cen­tre from Richmond to a new con­ven­tion cen­tre later ap­proved for down­town Van­cou­ver.

“It was go­ing to get built ei­ther way, so that was not an Olympic cost and be­came a sav­ings for us.”

In spite of pre­vi­ously re­ported costs of more than $7 bil­lion for the Van­cou­ver Games, Fur­long said the more ac­cu­rate num­ber is $2.5 bil­lion.


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