Council lays exploratory groundwork on funding of four high-priority projects including arena
After spending the majority of Monday’s session behind closed doors, the members of Calgary City Council voted for more refined funding for a new event centre, Arts Commons expansion, a fieldhouse, and the previously announced expansion of the BMO Centre.
“It was a long day but it was a productive day,” explained Ward 6 councillor Jeff Davison. “ At the end of the day, we have approved the event centre work plan so that will see us move forward and develop now a term sheet in order to come back to council with really the parameters of what we want to establish the terms of a deal and then we’ll be moving that forward to Calgary Sport and Entertainment Corporation after that.”
Davison confirmed that two separate assessment subcommittees were created on Monday; one to explore a fieldhouse in the McMahon district and the other for the Arts Commons expansion.
“We didn’t necessarily go through everything and say what are our top priorities but it’s pretty clear. We’ve got money in the BMO, we’re moving forward with that expansion project, so really the other three are what we are talking about. As we’re putting together now two subcommittees on evaluating what things would look like for a field house and what things would look like for the Arts Commons, it’s pretty clear that the event centre is priority one. It’s the furthest along and that’s what we intend to keep moving forward with.”
Following the vote, Mayor Nenshi called it a day of terrific conversation but reiterated that council has not approved any of the funding models, with the BMO Centre expansion as the lone exception, but has not said no to any of the projects.
“What you saw council do today was say ‘Look, we really want to do all four. We haven’t figured out how to make the money work to do all four. So administration, think of some creative ideas on how to move forward and determine if there is a portfolio approach there that really will allow us to move forward in a way that is responsible with taxpayers’ money on all four projects’.”
Council continues to await federal funding for the expansion of the BMO and the refined funding models for all of the projects that were stipulated Monday. “Once all these different pieces start to come into place, we can figure out how much cash we’ve got, what kind of debt can we take on, and what are the implications of that,” explained Nenshi. “If we can’t figure out the money, than one, two, three, or four of these projects won’t be able to go forward. Ultimately, we have to figure out the money.”
The members of council are expected to not make any further decisions on the projects until April.
With files from CTV’s Jordan Kanygin