News / Calgary

Arena important for attracting business: Calgary Economic Development

Without the Flames and a new arena, city would be hard to sell says CEO

If Calgary's aging Saddledome can't hold the Flames, they may head off greener pastures, and that could be bad for the city's business, says the head of Calgary Economic Development.

Metro File

If Calgary's aging Saddledome can't hold the Flames, they may head off greener pastures, and that could be bad for the city's business, says the head of Calgary Economic Development.

When the Calgary Economic Development is pitching the city to companies, having a hockey team and an NHL arena can be a hat trick.

On Monday, during a presentation outlining strategies the city should undertake for a more resilient and attractive downtown core, an arena was on some city councillors' minds.

"Can you envision a City of Calgary without a hockey team?" asked Coun. Joe Maggliocca. "Or without a new arena?"

This question comes after numerous threats from the sports organization to take the city's beloved Calgary Flames and just leave, if a deal on a new hockey arena isn't reached.

"I would just say, hockey is a topic, when we go out and pitch companies, that comes up early in the conversation," said Mary Moran, CED's CEO. "I'm not going to lie to you, we often bring hockey shirts to encourage those who are hockey fans to consider Calgary."

She said Tourism Calgary is trying very hard to position the city as a sports centre and a music centre.

"It's hard to do that when you have a hockey team that's threatening to leave, if they indeed are. I don't know the status of the proposition right now," Moran said. "I also find it difficult when we've invested in the National Music Centre and we're allowing big acts to fly overtop of us to Edmonton or Vancouver."

There's been a public perception, and it rears its ugly head almost weekly, that councillors and the mayor are opposed to a new arena plan – or that they're dragging their heels on a deal.

"You would agree it's viable to have a hockey team in Calgary and probably with a new arena, entertainment centre, it'd be a lot more viable for downtown if we bring it back to life," Maggliocca said, in response to Moran's thoughts.

And she agreed.

Coun. Druh Farrell said she hasn't heard a single councillor come out in opposition to a new arena.

"The city has been doing the lion's share of the work, the first proposal of CalgaryNEXT was almost on the back of a napkin," she told reporters on Monday. "The city showed it's interest by doing the lion's share of the work at its own expense."

For her, the discussion isn't about saying yes or no to a new arena, it's about getting the best possible deal for taxpayers.

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