City of Calgary recruits commercial real estate experts to revive new arena

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The City of Calgary has recruited three individuals from the commercial real estate industry to secure a new event center to replace the aging Scotiabank Saddledome.

CBRE Executive Vice President John Fisher, NAIOP Calgary Director of Strategic Initiatives Guy Huntingford and Ayrshire Group Executive Chairman Phil Swift have been tapped to engage both the city and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation ( CSEC) in order to enter into a new agreement.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the city’s planning and development officer, Stuart Dalgleish, told committee members that the group had already begun its work.

“We are at a stage where our third party is in discussions with the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation and the City of Calgary, with a view to determining if there is interest in discussing a new event center and a new agreement to the new event center,” said Dalgleish.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek is optimistic the team will be able to break the deadlock between the city and the CSEC.

“Today’s news is good news, and we have to be patient with what follows,” she said.

Chairman of the Event Center Committee and Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp says appointing a third party to help with the negotiations is a big step in seeing a new arena rise from the ashes of the failed deal.

“I’m very satisfied. A lot of work has been done to get to where we are today,” she said.

“Everybody wants an event center to be built.”

However, sports economist Moshe Lander says that may not be that important to most Calgary taxpayers.

“The question of who should pay for this is something that happens in every city, more or less, every time there’s a discussion in an arena or a stadium,” he said.

“In almost every case, the public sector blinks first and ends up throwing money at a project that isn’t going to recoup its costs.”

“Really, it’s just a question at this point of how much money does the city of Calgary want to invest in this project, knowing that they won’t get it back? How much do they want to sell to the taxpayers that this is what are you going to be responsible for, even though the vast majority of the townspeople won’t be using this arena in any capacity?”

CTV contacted CSEC on Wednesday to ask if the owners still had an interest in reviving the deal. There was no response before the publication deadline.

The original agreement was signed in December 2019. In it, the city and the CSEC agreed to share the cost of the $550 million project. When the price soared to over $630 million, the Flames’ owning group balked and canceled the deal. It officially expired on New Year’s Eve 2021.

Earlier this month, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met with CSEC to discuss the arena, among other matters. At the time, he told reporters he remained hopeful a deal could be reached.

“I’m always optimistic,” Bettman said. “There is nothing happening at this time to report that would indicate that there will be a solution immediately, but I hope everyone can understand that.”

Bettman also warned that without a new arena or an updated Saddledome, Calgary would miss important NHL events such as All-Star Games.

The Saddledome is the second oldest arena in the NHL behind Madison Square Garden in New York.

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