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City of Calgary event centre committee meets on new arena for Flames

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The City of Calgary's event centre committee will reconvene Friday morning to update members on negotiations for a replacement for the aging Saddledome.

Although much of the meeting will be held behind closed doors, there have been recent signs of progress. Council and committees meet in private any time issues of real estate are being discussed.

Last week NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in Calgary and met with Mayor Jyoti Gondek and committee chair Coun. Sonya Sharp. Bettman described the talks as "the most constructive in the entire process."

Despite the rosy assessment, the project as a whole has been troubled. A deal struck in 2019 for a $600-million replacement was scrapped just months before construction was set to begin in Victoria Park.

The failure of the project was blamed on rising cost uncertainty.

"The fact is that the costs have probably gone up 25 to 30 per cent in just two years," says Moshe Lander, an economist with Concordia University with a research interest in sports and infrastructure. "Higher interest rates means that it's going to be more expensive to finance whoever is paying for that government or Calgary Sports Entertainment. So nothing is gained here by dragging this thing out.

"And the other part of it too, is that taxpayers are tired. They don't want to hear this anymore."

Although there has been no public commitment from the province, Premier Danielle Smith has expressed support for a new arena complex. No money was set aside for the project in last week's provincial budget.

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