Once the key deadline is over, Calgary’s arena deal officially ends

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With the expiration of an important deadline, time has run out for the city and the owners of the Calgary Flames to salvage an agreement to build a new arena to replace the Saddledome.

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Both sides were required to give formal written notice by Dec. 31 to proceed to the $ 608.5 million construction phase of the project, but the deadline passed without notice, according to a senior city official.

City staff now expected to work with both parties to wind up the project and will report back to City Council sometime during the first quarter of 2022.

About $ 23 million has been spent on the project to date, and the city has funded $ 11.5 million of the cost, according to city estimates.

The City and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp. (CSEC) first signed an agreement in 2019 to share the cost of a new event center in East Victoria Park. The original price was set at $ 550 million, but costs have since risen.

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The deal was significantly updated last July, after budget adjustments pushed total costs to $ 608.5 million. The city and CSEC each committed an additional $ 12.5 million at the time, and the Flames agreed to take on additional cost overruns.

Since then, the cost of the project has only escalated with the latest estimate of over $ 630 million, according to CSEC.

The news of the collapse of the agreement appeared late on December 21, a few days before both parties had to confirm their approval to proceed to the construction phase.

The CSEC says the Calgary Flames will continue to play in the Saddledome, which was slated for demolition as soon as the new arena was up and running. Saddledomen is fast approaching its 40th birthday and it needs significant repairs in the coming years.

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The former city council supported the construction of a new event center as a critical part of Calgary’s major revitalization strategy at the center, and there has been speculation that the city could still pursue the project with another partner.

Jeff Davison was chair of the council’s event center assessment committee during his four years in office and played a key role in managing the process that eventually led to the 2019 agreement.

As Davison no longer sits on the council after a failed mayoral election, Davison said Monday that it is “personally disappointing” to see the arena agreement collapse, especially as it is supposed to be part of a larger vision to create a new culture and entertainment district in East Victoria Park.

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Councilor Jeff Davison speaks to the media as the council votes for a new arena in Calgary on Tuesday, July 30, 2019. Darren Makowichuk / Postmedia
Councilor Jeff Davison speaks to the media as the council votes for a new arena in Calgary on Tuesday, July 30, 2019. Darren Makowichuk / Postmedia

The expanded BMO Center and nearby Extended Arts Commons are also part of that plan, and construction is already underway on the new western entrance to Stampede Park, removing the maze of concrete barriers to get to Victoria Park / Stampede CTrain- the station.

“It’s discouraging that we seem to have lost the long-term benefits that the project would bring to the fore,” Davison said.

At this point, he said he has no more insight than most Calgarians about what happened and what the next steps may be.

“It’s not about guilt. In 2017, when we started talking about this again, I did not care whose guilt it was… If the benefits are there and the collective will is there, then let’s get it done. . ”

Calgary Municipal Land Corp., which is responsible for overseeing the development of the area that was to include the arena, issued a brief statement last month saying it remains “steadfast” in its commitment to the district’s overall vision.

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Davison said the previous council saw the new event center, as the city calls it, as an “anchor” for a revitalized entertainment center that transforms a part of the city where there is little more than sidewalks and parking lots.

“It will be up to this new council to decide: what is the vision for a district? Because you can not just build a $ 250 million Green Line station in Vic Park in the middle of a lot of parking lots,” he said.

“When we think about all the hundreds of millions of dollars we spend on infrastructure upgrades in the area to move people differently, all of this led to a vision of, ‘OK, we finally have to achieve what we’ve always wanted to do on this territory.’ And now that vision has changed. “

mpotkins@postmedia.com
Twitter: @mpotkins

masmith@postmedia.com
Twitter: @meksmith

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