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Calgary’s City Council will be voting during Tuesday’s council meeting whether to ratify the tentative deal between the city, the Calgary Flames and the Stampede for a new arena in Victoria Park. They’ve asked for feedback prior to the vote. The deadline for feedback is noon on Friday, so get to it!

Pals, this is a two-step process.

Get informed!

There’s a ton of stuff out there.

The City’s “event centre” site

This primer will give you a high-level summary of things.

The City Manager’s report to city council

This goes into a lot more detail and digs into the minutiae of the deal.

Our analysis of the overall deal

Is it a perfect deal for either side? No.

Both sides probably wish they put in less up-front cash. But an important part for the city was that they would need to share in the benefits of the arena if they were sharing in the risk. They’re 50/50 partners in the up-front risk, but they have their initial investment recouped somewhat over time (just as the Flames do from their revenue from operating the building).

As an addendum to our analysis piece, the city got us the net present value figures for two scenarios: if the proposed surrounding development happens and if it doesn’t:

Our analysis of the lease deal and revenue projections

The proposed lease for the new building is basically the existing Saddledome lease, aside from a slight tweak to the charitable contribution formula. But the really tantalizing thing is the ticket tax. If the Flames run the building as well as they run the Saddledome, in terms of drawing in events, it’s likely that the city’s projections for revenue are pretty feasible. If the Flames can use their shiny new bauble to lure in more events or bigger ticket events, it’s not outlandish to think that the city could actually get more revenue out of this than they’re saying.

Maclean’s columnist Jason Markusoff dug into the forecasts for development around the arena area on his Twitter

Our friend Neil deMause over at Field of Schemes also assessed the deal

Compared to the last Flames arena proposal, which was projected to cost taxpayers at least $1.2 billion, this one does seem to involve lighting less public money on fire. That’s about as much positive as we can say about it, though, and $212.9 million–plus toward a $550 million arena is still an awful lot of money — pretty close in percentage terms, in fact, to the $311 million in public money toward a $676 million arena that Edmonton spent on the Oilers, to much popular consternation. “It could have been worse” is extremely faint praise for any sports venue deal, especially when the median outcome for cities in such deals is “pretty awful.”

Ward 3 councillor Jyoti Gondek had her staff put together a rundown of the literature on non-economic benefit. It’s not exhaustive, but enough to give a snapshot of things not captured in purely economic assessments.

It’s natural to be skeptical of forecasts for future development. The Saddledome cost a pretty penny in the early ’80s and led to very little surrounding development. At council’s meeting on Monday night, mayor Naheed Nenshi summed it up like this:

“Are the non financial benefits of investing in something worth $47 million in today’s dollars?”

If the surrounding development completely fails to materialize and the only thing this investment buys Calgary is a new arena, the cost in today’s dollars is actually $118 million.

Give them your feedback!

The deadline to get your feedback on the public record is Friday at noon. There are a few different ways to get it in.

Submit to the City Clerk:

Written Submissions received by the City Clerk’s Office by Noon, July 26, 2019, will be included in the corporate record and distributed at the July 29 Combined Meeting of Council.

  • Email to: PublicSubmissions@calgary.ca, or
  • Mail to: Office of the City Clerk, The City of Calgary, 700 Macleod Trail SE, P.O. Box 2100, Postal Station “M”, Calgary, Alberta T2P 2M5; or
  • Fax to: 403-268-2362

Submit to your local Councillor:

Feedback will be gathered by Councillors for their own review ahead of the vote of City Council on July 29, 2019.

Don’t know who your city council representative is? Check out this list of communities here.

Bugging council members on social media potentially won’t be part of the public record, so maybe don’t do that. Stick to e-mails, the online contact form or phone calls.

The rundown

Having less than a week to mull over these details is a bit much. There’s a lot to go over. But if this vote passes, the deal is done. If you feel strongly one way or the other, have your voice heard.

We’ll (obviously) have more on this story as it continues to develop.


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