Calgarians should not be on the hook to cover additional costs for Flames arena, says Canadian Taxpayers Federation
CALGARY -- The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is saying a pause on a project to build the future home of the Calgary Flames is a red flag.
“Calgarians, we love our Flames and we want to continue to support our Flames but with tickets not taxes,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
The cost to build the $550-million event centre is supposed to be split evenly between Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation and the city.
Construction was supposed to begin this summer. The arena was scheduled to open in time for the 2024/2025 NHL season.
Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, the project manager has confirmed the project is on hold because the cost has gone up.
The mayor said this situation on a project of this scale isn't unusual.
“It’s not uncommon for major capital projects to be at this stage. Far better to have these issues sorted out at this stage than to have unexpected cost overruns after construction has begun,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi, in a statement.
Sources tell CTV News, the Flames have added demands including asking for another $70 million from the city, additional land and removing CMLC as project manager. Details were discussed in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
“It’s time for City of Calgary to actually stick up for taxpayers. They shouldn’t be giving a dime to the owners of the Flames,” said Terrazzano. “This was a sweetheart deal, it should never have been approved in the first place.”
“What we should see city council do is actually pull the plug on the arena deal. We couldn’t afford it back in 2019 and we certainly can’t afford it now,” he said.
Councillors said they can’t disclose details from the confidential meeting, because they are bound by a code of conduct.
“If there is anything that requires a re-visitation of the deal, if there is a re-negotiation that’s required, our administration will come to us and they will present it to us and we will have that conversation very publicly,” aid Jyoti Gondek, Ward 3 councillor.
“I’m here to tell you that there’s a deal in place. It is a deal we agreed to as a council in July 2019…I stand by that deal, I thought it was a great deal at the time. I continue to believe that,” said Gondek.
Gondek and Ward 11 councillor Jeromy Farkas who are both running for mayor, don’t believe this should become an election issue this fall.
“I and many Calgarians thought that we had a deal, a handshake means something in this town or at least I thought it did. At this point I just can’t support additional taxpayer money being shovelled into this especially if there might be even more demands down the road,” said Farkas,
Farkas said he pushed hard against confidentiality of the meeting.
“If more money is required to make the project go ahead, then Calgarians need to have all the facts….where that money will come from either potentially from service cuts or tax increases or potentially both.”
There is no indication when details will be released to the public.
CTV reached out to the Flames for comment. A spokesperson directed the request to CMLC, representing the partners.
The NHL did not provide comment Thursday.