News / Calgary

New Calgary arena plans are dead: Ken King

Mayor Naheed Nenshi not offering any comments at this time

Calgary skyline in the winter months, with the Saddledome in the foreground.

Metro file photo

Calgary skyline in the winter months, with the Saddledome in the foreground.

Calgary's dreams of a new arena and stadium are dead. For now.

Ken King, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation president and CEO, said the decision came after an owners meeting that happened on Tuesday.

"I needed to advise Gary (NHL commissioner Bettman) that we're no longer pursuing a facility. The owners' group are pretty clear and pretty definite on that," said King.

"The building is very important. We've been working on it for a long time ... we have been meeting directly for months and they've been spectacularly un-productive meetings."

In a mayoral re-election campaign release, Mayor Naheed Nenshi offered his vision for the redevelopment of the Rivers District, which included a new arena – among other amenities.

He said the different partners needed to work together for a deal that was best for the citizens of Calgary.

King said he called Nenshi after the latter announced his redevelopment vision. Both agreed the stadium was important.

"It doesn't look like we're going to get there and I think it's time that we stop pretending," said King.

The two sides had been working together for the past number of months after the initial CalgaryNEXT project was shelved. The Flames pegged the cost for that megaproject, which included a covered football stadium and a fieldhouse, at $890 million.

The city countered the Flames proposal, instead pegging the cost at nearly double the initial estimate. At that time, Nenshi said the CalgaryNEXT project wouldn't work and they'd entertain a so-called Plan B.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was at Ken King's media scrum Tuesday and compared Calgary's situation with that of Edmonton.

"This is a franchise, this is an arena that can't compete with, for example, Edmonton anymore. They don't have the resources they don't have the building," Bettman said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Nenshi switfly brushed by reporters saying that he couldn't comment on the latest development because he needed to be brought up to speed.

Councillor Andre Chabot, who is running for mayor, did weigh in.

"I certainly can’t react on behalf of council. What I can say is on behalf of myself, if I were the mayor of this city, I would strive to reengage with them," he said. "If they say they don’t want to talk anymore I would certainly want to pursue renegotiating something. I don’t know why they came to this conclusion. As far as I knew, the discussions were still open. We hadn’t concluded our discussions."

King did say they'd still do everything possible to be provide the best possible entertainment value they could in the Saddledome.

"We maintain this building pretty well, so we're going to make sure it's safe, we're going to make sure it's secure, but unfortunately it won't be as heavily populated with some of the events we would normally wish to have here," King said.

"We'll have some events and we'll have some concerts, we'll have some junior hockey games, some lacrosse games, and we'll have some community events and we'll do our damnedest try and win a Stanley Cup."

Still, Bettman made no bones about the NHL Flames future in Calgary - though he didn't say it outright.

"In the short term nobody should doubt the Flames or their ownership's commitment to this community," Bettman said.

"But at some point I envision, without a new building, there will be consequences that everybody's going to have to deal with."

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