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Design & Development

City of Calgary resumes talks for new NHL arena

Featured image credit: Jeff Davison

The City of Calgary has agreed to begin formal discussions with Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, parent company of the Calgary Flames, over a new events centre – almost a year after the NHL team pulled the plug on plans to develop a new arena.

The City of Calgary said the discussions will mark a “fresh start” for a potential new arena, which would serve as the home of the Flames and also host arts and entertainment events.

CSEC and the city have agreed that “time is of the essence” to reach a formal agreement on the new event centre, but the two parties will take the time necessary to reach an agreement that meets their respective needs.

The City of Calgary hired a third-party team in January to resurrect the project. The team included real estate specialists John Fisher, Guy Huntingford and Phil Swift. CAA Icon, which has helped structure deals for major sports and entertainment venues across North America and Europe, will now represent the City of Calgary going forward.

“We’re at the beginning of an important stage,” said Councillor Sonya Sharp, chair of the event centre committee. “A new event centre for our city will attract investment and international events. It will have enormous benefits for visitors and for Calgarians. We look forward to working with CSEC for our mutual benefit and for a result that works for everyone.”

Sharp added: “This new team has the right expertise to get the best outcome possible for Calgary. Our environment has changed quite a bit over the past couple years. With everything we have learned, I am confident that CAA Icon representing the city is our best path forward and reflects how important this project is.”

CSEC exited the project to develop a new 19,000-seat arena (pictured) for the Flames in December last year. The project was first unveiled in 2019 but faced a number of contentious moments.

A statement at the time said that CSEC and the City of Calgary had been unable to resolve a number of issues relating to the escalating costs of the project.

When the agreements were first executed back in December 2019 the parties agreed to a 50/50 cost sharing arrangement with respect to the design and construction of the new event centre. In July 2021, with these costs increasing to C$608.5m (£393.8m/€452.4m/$443.6m), the city informed CSEC they were not able to fund their 50% share which, under the terms of the Project Framework Agreement, would have resulted in termination at that time.

Instead, CSEC agreed to fund a disproportionate share (C$321m to the city’s C$287.5m) and agreed to accept the risk of reasonable future design and construction cost increases related to the event centre. The project was suspended in April 2021 due to a “difference” in the budget estimate and the programme requirements for the facility.

At the time the project was pulled, the cost estimates had risen to C$634m, which meant that CSEC would be responsible for an additional C$25.5m.

The Flames have played at the Scotiabank Saddledome since it opened in 1983, but have long been seeking a new arena. The Saddledome is the second-oldest arena in the NHL, after New York’s Madison Square Garden.