Council approves funding structure for $1.5 billion in long-term projects including event centre
City councillors received an information package just before the weekend that outlined some information on funding for a new arena in the core and they met behind closed doors on Monday to discuss the proposal.
Council voted Monday night on the terms for a $600 million event centre before they take it to the Calgary Flames for consideration as well as the funding for a BMO Centre expansion, a fieldhouse and upgrades to Arts Commons.
By a vote of 11-4, Calgary city council voted in favour of a funding strategy. Councillors Woolley, Demong, Farkas, and Farrell were the four who voted against the proposal.
“I am deeply concerned that council’s approval of all of these four projects completely kneecaps our financial capacity as an organization, severely limits our liquidity to undertake other projects that are of significant importance to council and will leave us in a bad financial position,” said Ward 8 Councillor Evan Woolley. “As time passes, the risks will become much more clear and, when we see this money being set up in accounts that will not be spent for many years to come, that will be of increasing concern to Calgarians.”
As of January 2019, the estimated cost of the four projects was $1.5 billion.
The funding plan was discussed in camera and the sources of the funding were not disclosed in a public forum. Last week, councillors voted to postpone the discussion until they could get more clarification on the proposed plan.
“Tonight, we’ve approved the financial strategy to move forward with the unfunded large capital projects the city has before us," said Ward 6 Councillor Jeff Davison. "In that, we have approved, the events centre assessment committee, to move forward with the negotiating mandate.”
“The thing to remember at the end of the day, with respect to all four projects, council’s really set a lot of terms and conditions in order to move that money and unlock it and move the projects forward. That said, we’ve stood behind them before and will continue to do that. Some are farther ahead than others and we’ll continue to move forward in the hopes that we can achieve everything.”
Council also voted in favour of a motion to develop a public engagement plan to collect public feedback on the terms and conditons of a deal once an agreement is reached with Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation as well as public feedback on the facility itself.
Woolley says additional details regarding the funding model will be revealed later this month.
“What I asked for today, and what council approved, was on March 18 we will see the buckets of money and where they’re coming from and hopefully a scale and scope of money. We all have a sense of what the four projects are, we all have a sense of the order and numbers of what they cost and so I don’t think it’s fair to keep these numbers a secret to Calgarians.”
Councillor Shane Keating says it is not uncommon to hold these types of meetings behind closed doors. “When you’re asking specific questions about financing, about how to arrange it, you know, what are the costs of construction are going to be, everybody does those behind closed doors,” he said.