UPDATE: Secret arena land deal could see taxpayers on the hook for as much as $63-million in additional subsidies
New arena more than $70-million over budget before even breaking ground
On Wednesday, April 14th it was announced by the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) that the new Flames arena is officially over budget before even breaking ground on construction. The new arena project is already costing taxpayers more than $290-million in subsidies to the billionaire Flames owners, but according to sources the arena may now be more than $70-million over budget.
Flames owners asking for an additional $70-million subsidy and more land
While the Flames owners refuse to inform the public of their new demands, CTV is reporting that they have requested:
- An additional $70-million
- CMLC removed as the project manager
- More land for the project
- Control over traffic
CMLC is the City of Calgary's arm's-length municipal agency charged with overseeing the design and construction of the new arena. The organization is also responsible for the redevelopment of Stampede Park, the BMO Centre Expansion, Olympic Plaza, Arts Commons and Fort Calgary. Their successes include the redevelopment of the East Village and the New Central Library.
Already a bad deal: $290-million in public subsidies and lucrative land deals for the new Flames arena
In July of 2019, chair of the “Event Centre Assessment Committee” Councillor Jeff Davison rushed the City of Calgary to sign an agreement for massive public subsidy of the new arena for the billionaire owned Calgary Flames. The controversial deal provided the Flames owners with a $290-million public subsidy for their new arena (including $15-million to demolish the Saddledome), plus exclusive deals for land around the arena valued at $100-million.
Ward 6 Councillor Jeff Davison, Chair of the Event Centre Assessment Committee (Source: CBC)
Pitched as a “catalyst” for the redevelopment of East Victoria Park, two years later the arena has not attracted a single dollar of private investment
The new arena was pitched by proponents as “a catalyst for attracting private sector investment” in East Victoria Park lands but nearly two years after the agreement was signed, not a single new dollar of private sector investment has been made. Today, East Victoria Park remains awash in empty surface parking lots.
In July 2019, the new arena was pitched to Calgarians as a “catalyst for private sector investment” into East Victoria Park during a rushed one week public engagement before signing the agreement. (Source: City of Calgary)
Flames owners terminated staff, offered legal bare minimum pay to employees at the start of the pandemic
The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation ownership includes billionaire as Murray Edwards, who has a net worth of $1.9-billion dollars. At the start of the pandemic, just months after receiving $290-million in public subsidy for their new arena, the owners sent notices to all their part-time staff that they would only pay their workers for events cancelled with less than 24 hours notice, the bare minimum required by law.
It’s time to finally engage Calgarians on the best use of the $290-million in public funds
In July of 2019, Cllr. Jeff Davison led the rest of City Council to rush a one week public engagement on the arena subsidy stating “We've done significant and almost unprecedented due diligence on this project.” lt’s now apparent that adequate due diligence has in fact not been done on this project.
City Council must give Calgarians a say about whether to spend hundreds of millions of our tax dollars on subsidizing the Flames owners’ over-budget arena. Calgarians should decide what is the best use of these funds.