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Economist not surprised over pause for Calgary arena

Last Updated Apr 15, 2021 at 8:47 pm MDT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – The fate of the Calgary arena project seems a little uncertain after it was revealed that development is briefly on hold due to some budget discrepancies.

Reports suggest that the Flames are asking for more money for the replacement to the Saddledome and discussions are underway to find common ground.

One economist believes this could be a big political issue, much like the failed bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

“Why not present it as a disaster today so that maybe the next mayor can save the project and be everybody’s hero?” said Moshe Lander with Concordia University. “It’s kind of important to see exactly where that leak came from these private meetings and who has something at play here.”

Lander added this stall in the arena plans shouldn’t come as a surprise given the large scale of the project.

WATCH: Budget issues put arena on hold

 

On Tuesday, city councillors were involved in a long discussion behind closed doors about capital projects. When they returned to the chambers, there was a push by Ward 11 Councillor Jeromy Farkas to make some parts of the meeting public and said that Calgarians would be “furious” to learn about what had been talked about.

The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation said the pause on the project was the best move to avoid incurring additional costs for the arena.

The arena was due to start construction in August after council agreed with Calgary Sports and Entertainment to split the cost on a $550 million in 2019.

The project is part of plans to revamp Stampede Park which are already underway with the expansion of the BMO Centre.

RELATED: City releases legal documents for new arena and event centre

Some are comparing the arena troubles with that of other professional teams where owners have threatened to move the team to another city if a new arena or stadium couldn’t be built.

Lander does not believe Calgary fits under this scenario as there are very few places the Flames could actually go.

“I don’t think that the NHL wants one of its flagship Canadian franchises leaving that city. I think they’re in a weak position here in terms of asking for more control over how this project is run. If anything, I think a lot of that leverage has now shifted to the city where they can very easily say, ‘We are in such financial straits here that you better pick up more of this project.'”

Right now, the new Calgary arena is still slated to be finished by 2024.