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Calgary arena project ‘paused’ amid differences in vision

Work on Calgary’s Event Centre, the proposed future home of NHL ice hockey franchise the Calgary Flames, has been suspended due to a “difference” in the current budget estimate and the program requirements for the facility.

The announcement was made by Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the City of Calgary which is managing the arena’s development. The GlobalNews.ca website said the difference in the budget estimate is C$70m (£40.6m/€46.7m/$56m).

Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC), the Flames’ ownership group, is also said to have requested more land for the project, the removal of CMLC as project manager and traffic changes around the new arena.

Kate Thompson, president and CEO of Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, said in a statement: “At this early stage in the project, there is a difference in the current budget estimate and the program requirements for the facility.

“Given the significance and importance of the project, the parties have jointly agreed to pause the project team to allow time to resolve these challenges. The decision to take this pause is the responsible and prudent approach to ensure we find the best solutions to move the project forward successfully, without incurring any additional costs on the project while these discussions progress. The team is working collaboratively to find a suitable path forward.”

In June 2020, CMLC announced the team that will develop the C$550m arena, with DIALOG and HOK chosen to lead the venue’s design. In January 2020, the City of Calgary revealed further details concerning its contentious agreement with CSEC to develop a new arena for the Flames, with Mayor Naheed Nenshi maintaining that the deal was a fair one for Calgary.

Plans for the new NHL arena were formalised in December 2019 after an agreement was signed between the Flames’ owners and city authorities. The 35-year agreement between CSEC, the City of Calgary and Calgary Stampede will keep the NHL team in the city for that time at the new arena.

December’s agreement came on the back of the City voting in favour of the project in July, just eight days after it was first unveiled. The scheme represented the third attempt to broker such an agreement in the past four years.

The Flames have played at the Scotiabank Saddledome since it opened in 1983, but have long been seeking a new arena. However, the nature of the process led to criticism from certain quarters that it was rushed through without proper scrutiny.

December’s announcement had specified that the City and CSEC would split the costs of developing the arena, with city officials stating that further details would be made public at a later date. Plans for cost overruns, insurance and the long-term future of the Saddledome were among the details revealed in January.

CMLC was expected to reveal the final arena design this spring, with construction of the Event Centre set to commence in August and completion slated for May 2024.

Commenting on the latest developments, Nenshi said: “It’s not uncommon for major capital projects to be at this stage. Far better to have these issues sorted out at this stage than to have unexpected cost overruns after construction has begun.”

Image: CMLC