Alberta Premier Danielle Smith voiced strong support for the much-discussed Calgary Event Centre this week, publishing a letter addressed to Mayor Jyoti Gondek, Councillor Sonya Sharp, and President of Calgary Sports and Entertainment John Bean.
"Calgary needs a new world class event centre and arena, and the time to commence with this project is now," Smith wrote in an open letter published on Twitter.
Additionally, Smith also said she would assign Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver -- who has previously served three terms on Calgary City Council -- to be the Province's representative for this project and gather feedback on how the Province can help see this project through.
"As a former Olympic host city, Calgarians are passionate supporters of both professional and amateur sport and comprise one of the greatest professional hockey fan bases in the world," Smith said. "As someone who has lived most of my life in Calgary, I know the Flames are an integral part of the fabric of the City, not to mention a critical direct and indirect economic driver and job creator for the community."
Third Time's a Charm?
Premier Smith's support comes a week after the City of Calgary and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) -- the parent company that owns the Calgary Flames and other Calgary sports teams -- announced they were restarting negotiations on the project.
"The City and CSEC have agreed time is of the essence to reach a formal agreement on a new event centre, while ensuring they take the time necessary to reach an agreement that will meet the City and CSEC’s needs," the City of Calgary said.
Renderings. (Calgary Municipal Land Corporation)
The two sides previously agreed on a deal in 2019 that would see them equally split the $550M costs. The City of Calgary and CSEC then returned to the table following the design phase, increasing the costs to $609M, but agreeing in July 2021 on a $288M and $321M split, respectively, with construction set to commence in Q1 2022.
However, the project hit another snag a few months later in December 2021, when it became clear that the budget would have to be increased further, to $634M. This time the two sides were unable to come to a compromise, with Mayor Jyoti Gondek announcing on December 21 that CSEC had pulled out of the deal.
This time around, with a bit of help from the Province, perhaps the two sides can reach an agreement.
New Calgary Event Centre
The Scotiabank Saddledome. (Calgary Flames)
If another agreement is reached, the new Calgary Event Centre will be located just north of the Saddledome, in East Victoria Park, named so in 1889 after Queen Victoria. The area is part of the City's Rivers District Master Plan, which outlines the long-term vision for Calgary's Culture and Entertainment District.
The Saddledome, which was constructed for the 1988 Winter Olympics, would then be demolished after the new facility is completed. While iconic, the Saddledome has fallen into disrepair in recent years, including concrete from the roof crumbling.
"Although Calgary's iconic Saddledome has served this community well, it is not able to adequately compete with the host of new event centres and arenas built and under construction across North America," Premier Smith said in her letter this week.
According to the Province of Alberta, the new Calgary Event Centre would have a capacity of around 19,000, about the same as the Saddledome. If a deal is reached, construction is expected to take approximately three years.