Some thoughts on the arena
There has been a lot of discussion about the proposed arena over the last couple of days and I wanted to take the time to clarify a few things. The City has been negotiating in good faith with the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC), the owners of the Flames, for months with respect to a new arena in Victoria Park and with the objective of reaching an agreement that would be a win for taxpayers and a win for the owners of the CSEC.
Back when CSEC introduced CalgaryNEXT, I proposed a number of principles, which were unanimously adopted by Council, to guide our work with respect to any new arena. The most important tenet was that public money must be used for public benefit, particularly with many Calgarians still struggling during this fragile economic recovery. Furthermore, I have always maintained that there must be public engagement on any proposed agreement prior to Council making a decision.
I keep hearing people say that ‘the Mayor doesn’t want an arena’. This is simply not true. I recently released my vision for a cultural and entertainment district in the River’s District, in the eastern part of downtown, and a new arena is a vital part of that plan. We know, however, that it takes more than just an arena to make a vibrant community (after all, the Saddledome has been there for 34 years without spurring much additional real estate development) and I have outlined a solid plan to make a cultural and entertainment district a reality.
There is no doubt that the Flames are a crucial part of our city’s cultural fabric and a new arena will have a positive impact on our city. Everyone understands this. That is why the City has devoted considerable time and money to advancing discussions with CSEC on this project.
That is also why I am surprised that CSEC has walked away from the table. It’s true that negotiations have been long and difficult, but that is to be expected given the amount of public money at stake. The City has a fair and reasonable proposal on the table and we were expecting negotiations to continue after our August break.
It is disappointing that the ownership group has unilaterally determined that there is no deal here. CSEC was told as recently as Monday that the City is still at the table and willing to negotiate. The City has not and will not ever leave the table as long as I am Mayor. But we will continue to search for a win-win deal. A win for citizens and taxpayers, and a win for the Flames owners.
Yesterday, Council authorized me to share details of the proposal that the City has on the table now. You will hear more about the details of the proposal later this week. I think this proposal is eminently reasonable and a good mix of public money and public benefit, where taxpayers and the owners share in the risk and in the upside. I hope you look on this proposal with a fresh perspective and the knowledge that I am fighting for you, even if it becomes difficult. Nothing of value, like building a great city, comes easy and we must be wary of those who pretend that it is.
The City is ready to talk and ready to engage with CSEC. We have before us a path to a win-win for our community, but it requires partnership and goodwill.
I thank you for your support and I look forward to sharing the details of the city’s proposal shortly.