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Nenshi says Seattle deal shows a 'larger universe of options' for arena

Although Calgary's arena talks have dissolved, the mayor said he's open to ideas and discussions

The Calgary skyline including the Saddledome is shown on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.

Jeff McIntosh / The Canadian Press

The Calgary skyline including the Saddledome is shown on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.

For Naheed Nenshi, Seattle's arena deal means a stadium full of possibilities for Calgary.

On Monday, councillors in Seattle voted to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that will pave the way for an NHL and NBA-ready stadium that will open its doors in as little as three years.

In Calgary, talks surrounding a new arena crumbled just in time for the civic election with Calgary Sports and Entertainment president Ken King and City of Calgary (through Nenshi) duking it out in the public sphere with their competing arena deals.

The city's pitch for arena financing included a third of the $555 million coming from the city's coffers, another third from the Calgary Flames and the final third paid out through a ticket surcharge. But when King commented, he believed looking at the offer that although it was presented as an equal share between three parties, the Calgary Flames would end up forking over profits.

"So it's all Flames revenue and if we thought that model could work we'd have saved everyone a lot of time, a lot of newsprint and a lot of broadcast hours and just got on with our life," King told reporters in September.

But the Seattle deal has Mayor Nenshi perking up. On Tuesday, he told reporters there isn't anything new happening on an arena deal front, but he's always ready to negotiate.

"I'm interested in the Seattle news because of course that's over $600 million of private funding, In fact it's the first time I've seen an arena deal that has the private funder actually paying for the road and infrastructure improvements as well as making a donation to charity just cause," said Nenshi.

"So, it certainly shows there's a larger universe of options in getting this kind of infrastructure built perhaps than what we've been exposed to."

When asked, Nenshi wasn't too concerned about the Flames packing up for a new market – something Ken King has said is not a threat they were making (at peak points of the arena talks), but that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman alluded to when Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation announced they were no longer pursuing an arena.

"If I'm the National Hockey League I'm not sure that I'm leaving one of my top ten markets to go to a place which is unproven and also give up $500 million U.S. in expansion fees," said Nenshi. "So I expect you'll see a different answer if the NHL is going to Seattle."

Metro reached out to CSEC for comment, but Ken King was not available.

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