News / Calgary

Civic election on horizon and no sign of a Calgary arena deal

Calgary city council set for summer break after final meeting

Calgary has been talking about a new arena for years as the Saddledome continues to inch closer to retirement.

Courtesy/ CSEC

Calgary has been talking about a new arena for years as the Saddledome continues to inch closer to retirement.

What's the deal with a new arena?

On Monday, council is set to talk about a lot of things: secondary suites, flashing lights on buses, the Olympics – but one big topic is missing from the conversation.

As the city draws closer to the municipal election, what's conspicuously missing from the agenda is a possible arena deal.

Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation president Ken King wouldn't comment on the possibility of a deal before council's last meeting in September, but has previously and very publicly stated he'd like to see a deal before voters head to the polls in October.

Sounds like some councillors would like word on a deal, too.

"I want to get it done as soon as possible," said Coun. Joe Magliocca. "Right now the ball is in their court, they have to respond to us."

Magliocca said the Calgary Sport and Entertainment Corporation was supposed to send the City of Calgary a response as part of the negotiation process, but as of Monday, he said they hadn't seen anything.

"I have nothing to hide, I do things before elections, or after the election, I'll vote the same way. It doesn't matter if it's before the election or after."

In the past months, there have been updates on the arena talks behind closed doors as the city and CSEC continue talks.

The two sides have been back and forth on a so-called 'Plan B' after the city effectively scuttled the original CalgaryNEXT deal - a mega sports project slated for the city's West Village – earlier this year.

One of the biggest sticking points, aside from the need for the creosote-contaminated soil to be cleaned up, was the difference in projected costs. CSEC pegged the project at $890 million, while the city's figures came in near double that amount.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi has, in the past, said he's in no rush to seal an arena deal. He said it's important that the public is comfortable with what's on the table. In 2016, he said that any decision on an arena should be made with public consultation and transparency.


Coun. Andre Chabot said whether there's public consultation or not, if a deal is ready council could still make a decision on the arena, or at least set pace on it. But he said a final decision probably won't happen before an election.

VOTECalgaryNEXT, a nonpartisan group, is already gearing up for the arena as an election issue. They've sent out questionnaires to all of the current councillors and as many of the running candidates they can find to try and gauge a stance on the issue.

"With CalgaryNEXT, it is such a hot topic in our city," said VOTECalgaryNEXT spokesperson Jonathan Burkinshaw. His group is hoping to get a look at what citizens think through their own grassroots plebiscite. "It's a great indicator to let councillors know what's being discussed at the local pubs, at the local areas after a game."

So far, as the election nears, the only form of public consultation on an arena came from a survey commissioned by eight out of the 15 seats around council's table, which showed that most Calgarians want to replace the Saddledome, and are OK with spending public money without a hit to property taxes.

More on