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Nenshi to Bettman's push of CalgaryNEXT: "that's not how we operate"

Last Updated Jan 11, 2016 at 5:23 pm MDT

Reporter Lucas Meyer

Calgary’s mayor is standing firm on the City’s review of the CalgaryNEXT project, after the NHL commissioner gave a presentation urging the local government to embrace it.

Gary Bettman told a Calgary Chamber of Commerce audience the project needs to happen, noting the Flames will be in the oldest NHL arena by 2017 and won’t be able to host events like the NHL Draft or All-Star Game because of the state of the Saddledome.

But Naheed Nenshi said Monday that the City would continue its current review.

“Perhaps in other cities that he has come to, the city councils have just written cheques based on back of the napkin proposal without any consultation to the public or without any analysis, that’s not how we operate here,” he said.

CalgaryNEXT’s estimated cost is around $900 million in the west village, but that doesn’t include the cost to clean up the left over creosote contamination of the proposed site, with some conservative estimates being in the hundreds of millions.

Nenshi said the Flames have been satisfied with the City’s review framework as they await a spring report on the project and after that, there will be a big public discussion about it.

At this point, Nenshi said he hasn’t seen any numbers that suggest CalgaryNEXT is economically viable as proposed, but added there’s no numbers that suggest it isn’t either.

The mayor said Bettman requested a meeting with him, but Nenshi suggested with him being in council, that if there wasn’t any new information from the league, it probably wasn’t worth the time.

When asked to respond to Bettman’s comments about the project being important to the city’s vibrancy, Nenshi responded with a tongue-in-cheek answer.

“I know that Calgarians require very wealthy people from New York to come and tell us what we need to do in our community because they understand vibrancy better than we do,” he said.

Cllr. Ray Jones was in attendance for Bettman’s presentation and said while it was impressive, the City is doing its due diligence.

“Before we can do build anything, even if we all unanimously agree to it,” he said. “The problem is we still have to find the money, we don’t have the money either and the top of our priority list is the multi-purpose fieldhouse, it’s one of those things that we need in this city.”

As for other possible locations, Jones said one option could be Fire Park, although it has a contamination issue as well, but not like that in the west village.