Magic Beans Funding May Be Needed For Calgary’s Proposed Arena

Another chapter in the saga of building a Calgary arena is being written.  

In July, Calgary elected officials figured out how to fund an arena that pleased the owners of the National Hockey League Calgary Flames franchise. And it did not require magic beans. In the battle for arena funding, Calgary Mayor Mayor Naheed Nanshi talked about the arena in fairy tale terms. “Don’t sell me magic beans,” doubting economists who touted the arena’s economic benefits. Initially, Nanshi’s reluctance to support arena funding got Flames ownership so upset that in 2017, the group supported Nanshi’s opponent and let arena customers attending a game know just what ownership thought in a very public and juvenile manner. No matter, Nanshi eventually delivered and Flames ownership will get a revenue generating arena and some public loonies from the city to subsidize the building’s project cost.

But a new problem has surfaced, The Flames ownership has not signed the arena deal yet with Nanshi. Calgary Councilman Evan Woolley wants to back out of the deal and use some of the $275 million Canadian dollars that is earmarked for the arena to be redirected and used for light rail, a new police station and affordable housing projects, But Nanshi is insisting a deal is a deal. It was a long and winding road that was taken to get an agreement. In September, 2017, the Flames ownership threw in the towel and decided to walk away from Calgary elected officials. The team was going to play at the Saddledome, a building that opened in 1983 for the foreseeable future. In April, 2017, Flames Chief Executive Officer Ken King expressed unhappiness with local elected officials’ refusing to help fund the Calgary Next project. “There would be no threat to move, we would just move,” King said. “And it would be over. And I’m trying my level best to make sure that day never comes, frankly.” That day never came.

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