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'This is a legacy': Calgary officially reaches agreement on event centre

Last Updated Dec 6, 2019 at 6:02 am MST

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — A definitive agreement has been signed for Calgary’s new event centre and arena for the Calgary Flames.

City Councillor Jeff Davison confirmed the agreement with the Flames and Calgary Stampede Thursday morning.

“Hopefully this will help unfold the next chapter of positive momentum in our city.”

Calgary approved a deal for a new arena in July 2019 in which the city will pitch in $290 million of the $550 million price tag.

The other half of the agreement is being paid by the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, with the Calgary Flames and the Calgary Stampede both signed on to the deal.

Originally, the city’s contribution was billed at $275 million, but when land transfers and some other costs are factored in such as the demolition of the aging Saddledome, the price inches up another $15 million.

But despite some concerns from the public and a few councillors at city hall, it is hoped this investment will be made back and then some.

“We need to continue to be a hub, an attractor for talent, an attractor for investment,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi after the agreement was signed. “This really is about building a neighbourhood. It really is about creating something, a central hub for the city that will be extraordinary.”

The project is aimed to be not just any old hockey rink, and instead be a year-round gathering place that can host activities and concerts, along with adding retail space in east Victoria Park.

“This is historic for Calgarians, this isn’t just a one-time thing,” said Councillor Ward Sutherland. “This is a legacy.”

The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation will be in charge of design and development, which goes alongside the expansion of the BMO Centre.

“We’re in a unique position with this project in North America that we’re both overseeing the expansion of a convention centre that will have a million square feet at the end, and also an event centre at the same time,” said CMLC VP Kate Thompson.

The Flames will stay in the city during construction and have already signed a 35-year lease on the centre.

“I’m 100 per cent confident that this team will be here to stay in Calgary for the next 35 years,” Davison added.

There were also some questions about how it took so long to get to this point after council approved the deal in the summer, but Davison noted an agreement like this is “complicated” and they still were close to their target signing date of Nov. 30.

The city is expected to start public consultations on the event centre and arena next month.

“The hard part starts now,” said CMLC President Michael Brown.

“We’ve done collectively some amazing work over the past year and a half to make sure we truly understood the project and to ensure we can be successful in delivering the project. But the next step of actually getting the teams together and dealing with the opportunity or the beast in front of us, this is really the hard part.”

Some more complete renderings of the project can be expected soon after some of these early meetings are held.