A deal has officially been signed to allow Calgary to move forward on construction of its new event centre — replacing the aging Saddledome — with construction slated to begin next year.
On Thursday, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said formal agreements had been signed by the City of Calgary, the province of Alberta, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC), which owns the NHL’s Calgary Flames, and the Calgary Stampede.
That’s a green light to start design and construction work on the new home of the Calgary Flames, and the surrounding culture and entertainment district.
This comes after the groups reached a deal in principle in April.
The arena is slated to cost $800 million, while other expenses, including surrounding infrastructure, bring total project costs close to $1.2 billion.
The city will be contributing $537 million to the project, while CSEC is putting forward $356 million.
WATCH | After officials announced a deal in principle to replace Calgary’s Saddledome, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek explained the project:
“This project is moving forward at this critical moment when we are seeing explosive population growth and increasing private sector investment and interest in our city,” Gondek said during a media conference Thursday.
Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors Devin Dreeshen said the province is putting forward $330 million to be used toward infrastructure investments, including land purchases, road and bridge construction, and demolishing the Saddledome.
“Now the demolition of the Saddledome will be a tough day for Albertans. It’s an iconic building that’s seen by visitors flying into Calgary for the first time, and it is a reassuring sight for families flying home to Calgary, and it proudly highlights our western heritage here in Alberta and has hosted so many memorable events,” Dreeshen said, adding that the Saddledome will only be demolished once the new arena is built.
The opening date is expected around 2027.
The project also includes other infrastructure, including a community rink, new streets and public plazas.
The agreements come after news broke last year that the previous arena deal had collapsed. Construction was supposed to start on what was then a $600-million arena in 2022.
At that time, Flames owners had said rising costs, and the risk that they would increase further, prompted them to back out.
Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp, who chairs the city’s Event Centre Committee, thanked the project team for expedient work.
WATCH | Chair of Event Centre Committee takes part in arena deal announcement:
Sharp said CAA Icon will be the development manager for the project, while Dialog/HOK will remain the primary design firm — they were also the design firm selected for the previous event centre project.
In a media release, the city said CAA Icon will soon begin utility and site preparations to make room for the community rink, public plazas and event centre.
They will also begin work on the development permit process. The permit process is expected to be completed in 2024, followed by construction beginning later the same year.
John Bean, Calgary Flames president and CEO, said getting the agreement across the finish line was an important step.
“It’s really important for the city of Calgary, and for all our fans and all the citizens, quite frankly, that we solve the riddle on such an important piece of infrastructure for the city,” he said.
“We’re delighted that we don’t have to be worrying about where’s our home for the next 35 years and we can get ourselves focused on getting this thing designed and built. And then maybe we get focused on winning a Stanley Cup in here as well.”
In an emailed media release, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce said it welcomes the agreement.
“This level of collaboration is an important step forward for future public policy initiatives,” the statement read.
But other groups, like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, have previously said it wasn’t an appropriate use of taxpayer funds.
The city said “as with all business agreements” they will be reviewing the deal for proprietary and financially sensitive details before releasing primary agreements publicly. Those are expected to be released in the coming months.
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