City and Flames organization restart formal talks in arena

This city is doing things differently this time by hiring consulting firm CAA ICON to represent Calgary at the bargaining table

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The City of Calgary and Calgary Flames ownership are returning to the table in hopes of reaching a new arena deal, but this time the city has drafted a negotiation aide.

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The two sides have agreed to resume formal talks on a new arena, officials said at a meeting of the City Council’s Event Center Committee on Wednesday.

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The previous agreement between the city and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp. collapsed late last year due to cost overruns, just weeks before construction began on the $650 million project.

This city is doing things differently this time by hiring consulting firm CAA ICON to represent Calgary at the bargaining table.

The American company has more than 20 years of experience in “planning, activating, designing, building and commissioning projects” for sports teams and cities around the world, according to the website of the company.

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Michael Thompson, general manager of the city’s infrastructure services, said CAA ICON was retained as a “deal structure advisor” on the advice of third-party mediators who were brought in in May to help restart the talks. .

Those third-party mediators are now stepping down, though the city may continue to call on their expertise as the talks progress, according to event center committee chairman Coun. Sonya Sharp.

She called the new talks a “fresh start” and said having these consultants in the corner of town means the negotiation process will be “very different” from last time.

  1. Rendering of the proposed event center in Calgary, which was to replace the Scotiabank Saddledome, posted October 29, 2021.

    The cost of closing a failed arena deal is $16.8 million

  2. A view of the parking lots north of the Saddledome, where a new event center was to be built.

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  3. The Scotiabank Saddledome was photographed on Wednesday January 12, 2022.

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  4. Rendering of the proposed Calgary Event Centre, which will replace the Saddledome, posted October 29, 2021.

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  5. Rendering of the proposed Calgary Event Centre, which will replace the Saddledome, posted October 29, 2021.

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“That’s their subject,” Sharp said. “They are experts in this area and the City of Calgary has gone through the process to ensure we have the right people in place for this next phase.”

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Sharp said the city administration and CAA ICON will work together on talks with CSEC and then report back to the event center committee. The committee will in turn report to the board on major decisions that need to be made.

On Wednesday, workers march on the roof of the Scotiabank Saddledome.
On Wednesday, workers march on the roof of the Scotiabank Saddledome. Gavin Young/Postmedia

She said a fresh start pretty much means everything is back on the table, even though the city and CSEC have already moved closer to a deal that included design plans for an event center.

“Between CSEC, the City of Calgary, and CAA ICON, they will have to decide what they can learn from, what they can reuse, and what we can use to move formal discussions forward.”

When asked if a new location was possible, Sharp said the city is focused on building a new event center “downtown.”

In a press release, CSEC President and CEO John Bean said the deal was a chance to move forward.

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“All parties share a collective desire to see a new event center built in Calgary. We look forward to discussions with the city to see if we can find an acceptable path,” Bean said.

There is no timeline for the parties to reach a formal agreement on a new event center, although the city said it would “take the time necessary to reach an agreement that will meet the needs of the city ​​and the BBRI”.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Coun.  Sonya Sharp, right, speaks to the media on Wednesday.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Coun. Sonya Sharp, right, speaks to the media on Wednesday. Gavin Young/Postmedia

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she thinks Calgarians will be happy to hear the arena talks are moving forward again.

“The committee and the board had asked for patience as we built a relationship and figured out if this was something we could revisit, and it turns out we can,” she said.

News of the resumption of talks was greeted with optimism by Brad Parry, president of Calgary Economic Development, who said talks could still take some time.

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“I think it’s a big step, the fact that we’re talking and having these formal discussions now,” Parry said. “We’re going to get it right, we’re going to keep doing it, but we’re not going to rush it.”

The collapse of the previous agreement was not without costs. Last month, a city briefing revealed the city had incurred $16.8 million in costs related to the failed event center deal.

The event center was previously promoted as a centerpiece of the city’s planned cultural and entertainment district, which also includes the Stampede grounds, the BMO Center convention complex, and parts of 17th Avenue and the East Village. .

Com. Courtney Walcott, who sits on the Events Center Committee, said he hopes a new Events Center will eventually become a cornerstone of the city’s infrastructure as a place for Calgary’s cultural development. .

“That’s why I’m so excited to be a part of this work because we know the importance of honoring our culture, and we know the importance of investing in ourselves,” Walcott said. “The future of our city is changing because . . . we invite so many more people from all over the world to be part of this culture.

— With files from Jason Herring and Josh Aldrich

[email protected]
Twitter: @brodie_thomas

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