Mayoral Race Tightens, Nenshi and Smith on New Arena

Mayoral Race Tightens, Nenshi and Smith on New Arena

Flamesnation posted this article asking all of the candidates for mayor to respond to 3 questions about a new arena. As usual, Bill Smith has little substance to add, which is too bad since he’s a popular candidates, just doesn’t have anything resembling a coherent plan. Here are the two pertinent conversations from the larger article.

Naheed Nenshi

Do you believe that the Saddledome needs to be replaced as Calgary’s primary arena?

I think the Saddledome has served Calgary extremely well over its 34 years, and I think it still has some life left in it. However, I recognize that the design presents some challenges for certain uses of the building. My vision for a culture and entertainment district in Victoria Park, in between the East Village and the Stampede, includes a new arena because I understand how it can be an important part of the revitalization of that area. The Saddledome hasn’t been able to be the catalyst for development in that area, but an arena that is part of a larger vision – which I presented several weeks ago and which you can see in full at www.nenshi.ca – could certainly be part of something special that we can build together.

To what extent do you support direct financial contributions from the City to the construction of a new arena?

As I stated above, I support a new arena, but it has to be the right deal for Calgarians. I will say it again: the funding model must be based on the principle of public benefit for public money, and large numbers of Calgarians have told me that they will accept nothing less. I believe that The City’s offer where The City, the fans and the Flames would each split a third of the costs is more than fair, especially because there are other aspects that are still open for negotiation (the financing of the ticket surcharge, for example). As long as I am Mayor, The City will be at the table. It is also important to remember that Council as a whole gives direction to our negotiation team; this is not just about me, no matter how much CSEC wants to make it out to be that way. It’s about getting a fair deal for Calgarians.

To what extent do you support other contributions from the City to the construction of a new arena (such as land or infrastructure tie-ins)?

The City’s most recent offer to the Flames also included the land for a new arena, the basic infrastructure necessary for an arena’s construction (e.g. utility upgrades), and additional infrastructure that will be essential to a future arena’s success, including the transit access (Green Line station), and I believe that’s fair. There may be other opportunities for this type of contribution, and so long as the overall offer meets my guiding principle of public benefit for public contribution, I would be open to considering them.

It is important to note here that CalgaryNEXT – which has been touted by some candidates as still being a viable option – has significant costs to the public that fit within this category (i.e not a direct financial contribution). The potential costs to the public of this project are a minimum of $1 billion dollars (likely much more). Yes, the land needs to be cleaned up in any event, but we need to approach that in a deliberate, thoughtful way that respects the needs of the surrounding community. We are also in the middle of sensitive negotiations to determine who will be responsible for paying for the clean-up and how much (the polluter, the provincial government, The City). We can’t rush it for the sake of a legacy project when other alternatives – ones that will take much less time to bring to completion anyway – are available.


Bill Smith

Do you believe that the Saddledome needs to be replaced as Calgary’s primary arena?

There is little doubt that the Saddledome does not meet the needs of Calgarians. I believe a new arena can be constructed with minimal direct cost to Calgary taxpayers. A new arena would support local sports, hospitality and entertainment industries. I also love the Flames and I want to keep them in Calgary without giving away the farm.

To what extent do you support direct financial contributions from the City to the construction of a new arena?

If we can show a corresponding benefit back to the community, some level of public funding may be appropriate. But right now, there’s no deal and there never will be one under the current Mayor. Like most Calgarians, I love the Flames. But any new deal has to put Calgary taxpayers first.

To what extent do you support other contributions from the City to the construction of a new arena (such as land or infrastructure tie-ins)?

The arena issue has become polarized and politicized. But honestly, the public relations battle of the opposing pie charts has done little to offer real insight into the negotiation process. Only after seeing all aspects of the negotiations could I form an opinion of what role taxpayers could and should play. Without knowing those details I could not in good conscience offer an opinion on the merits of city contributions including land, infrastructure tie-ins, road network expansion, or even Saddledome demolition.

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