Home ยป Top city officials are defending and providing an explanation for the latest agreement to replace the Saddledome.

Top city officials are defending and providing an explanation for the latest agreement to replace the Saddledome.

Calgary will be receiving a brand new arena in its downtown area.

How often has that been mentioned over the last few years?

The City of Calgary, the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC), the provincial government, and the Calgary Stampede have all approved a set of agreements that pave the way for the construction of a new arena and the development of a new entertainment district.

The estimated price for the arena is $800 million, and when factoring in additional expenses such as surrounding infrastructure, the total project costs amount to nearly $1.2 billion.

The project will receive a contribution of $537 million from the city, and CSEC will provide $356 million (at present value).

CSEC has agreed to make yearly payments of $17 million to the city for a duration of 35 years. These payments will increase by one percent each year.

The province is allocating $330 million for infrastructure projects such as acquiring land, constructing roads and bridges, and demolishing the Saddledome.

The arena’s design is currently being developed, and although construction is planned to commence in 2024, there is no official announcement regarding the opening date.

After the deal was finalized, CBC News interviewed two high-ranking City of Calgary officials who have been supervising the megaproject.

They are city manager David Duckworth and Michael Thompson, the general manager of infrastructure services.

The conversation has been revised to make it shorter and easier to understand.

Two women and a man smile.
On April 25, 2023, an announcement was made regarding the plans for a new events centre to replace the old Saddledome. Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp. CEO John Bean were present at the event. (The Canadian Press)

How do you respond to the concerns that the city is investing excessive funds into the arena?

DD emphasized that their project is not solely focused on constructing an arena. They aim to create an entire culture and entertainment district, intending to revamp the area significantly within the next five to ten years. DD believes that when people reflect on the transformation, residents of Calgary will feel a great sense of pride. The project entails the construction of a brand-new arena with over 18,000 seats, along with the only community rink in downtown, which can accommodate 1,000 spectators. Additionally, there will be both outdoor and indoor public spaces for gatherings.

A man in a suit and glasses
Calgary’s city manager, David Duckworth. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

We hope that people in Calgary and visitors can enjoy outdoor events instead of being confined indoors. Our main goal is to create a sense of community. Additionally, the new event center will be located right across from Canada’s second-largest convention center, which is going to be amazing. This transformation will significantly impact the area. The good news is that we recognize the need to replace the Saddledome, as it is 40 years old. It either needs replacement or extensive upgrades costing hundreds of millions of dollars. With our state-of-the-art event center, we have secured a long-term tenant, the Calgary Flames, for 35 years.

The city possesses this establishment and has secured a long-term tenant who will oversee its operations, maintenance, and organize various impressive events for both locals and tourists. Thus, the city’s investment in this area goes beyond supporting an NHL team.

Why is the current arena deal different from the previous one where the City and CSEC had an equal share of ownership?

DD: The two deals cannot be compared as they are completely different. Furthermore, we expect a significant amount of investment from private companies in that region. You may have heard that there will be 8,000 new residents in this area. I am confident that there will be a considerable increase in retail and hotel space, which will complement the expansion of the BMO Centre in 2024. In five or ten years, people from Calgary will reflect on what has happened and what is yet to come in this area. It will be a transformative development that will have a lasting impact for generations. We are extremely enthusiastic about the investment we are making in this region.

Can the city still collect property tax on the potential development property on the northeast corner of the event centre block, considering the annual payment received from CSEC?

There are four parcels of land in the district that will generate property tax revenue for the city as they will be privately owned. The specific parcel on the northeast corner may change during the design process of the facility. We will determine the placement of the facility, community rink, parkade, and outdoor plazas. Therefore, if it moves around – currently estimated to be about half an acre – it may shift during the planning and design phase of the facility.

A smiling man in a suit
Michael Thompson, general manager of infrastructure services at the City of Calgary. (City of Calgary)

After finalizing the plan and design for the facility, our strategy will be to offer Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation the opportunity to purchase the property from the city and proceed with its development. Similar event centers in North America typically include commercial establishments such as retail stores and restaurants accessible from the street. These establishments would also contribute to property tax revenue. Therefore, we anticipate generating income not only from the development of the surrounding areas but also from the retail spaces within the facility.

DD: This is a new approach compared to what we have done previously. Previously, we did not consider the development of the district. This time, it was crucial for us to consider not only the development of this specific 10-acre plot of land, but also the surrounding parcels, as they contribute to creating a lively environment.

You look at the way the Saddledome was built. [It’s] not unlike older facilities in sports around North America. It’s a stadium or arena surrounded by parking lots. This is not going to be that. This is going to be an arena surrounded by retail, restaurants, hotels, residential high-rises. It’s going to completely transform the area, which will increase the property tax revenue that the city will see coming from that area.

Will the new building incorporate environmentally friendly measures such as solar panels or geothermal heating, similar to what we observed in the previous building?

We will incorporate environmentally friendly measures into the building design. Currently, we are in the early stages of the design process and don’t have specific information about these initiatives.

Is there a possibility of having a similar arrangement in this arena agreement, where the city of Edmonton would have access to a community rink associated with the arena?

MT: The piece we love about the community rink is it will be available for public booking after 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and all day on weekends. The great thing about that is we need ice time in Calgary after 4:30 on weekdays and all day on weekends. And so the public will be able to access and book that space in the evenings, throughout the weekdays, and all day on the weekends. That’s why it’s going to be such a fantastic addition.

Currently, there are no ice rinks for the hockey community in downtown Calgary. However, as the downtown area is being developed and the city has a $1-billion plan to revitalize it, including converting offices into residential spaces, there is a need for more recreational areas in downtown. This is why the addition of an ice rink is highly anticipated and exciting for us.

Source: cbc.ca