City of Calgary recruits commercial real estate experts to breathe new life into new arena

The City of Calgary has hired three people from the commercial real estate industry in an effort to get a new entertainment center to replace the aging Scotiabank Saddledome.

CBRE Executive Vice President John Fisher, Director of Strategic Initiatives at NAIOP Calgary Guy Huntingford and Ayrshire Group Executive Chairman Phil Swift have been appointed to engage both the city and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) in reaching a new deal.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the city’s planning and development manager, Stuart Dalgleish, told committee members that the group has already started their work.

“We are at a stage where our third party is in discussions with both the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation and the City of Calgary to determine if there is interest in discussions about a new entertainment center and a new deal on the new entertainment center,” said Dalgleish.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek is optimistic that the team will be able to break the deadlock between the city and CSEC.

“Today’s news is good news, and we have to be patient with what comes next,” she said.

Event Center Committee Chair and Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp says naming a third party to assist in the negotiations is a big step to see a new arena rise from the ashes of the failed deal.

“I am very satisfied. A lot of work has gone into getting where we are today,” she said.

“Everyone wants to have an event center built.”

However, sports economist Moshe Lander says it might not be such a big deal for most taxpayers in Calgary.

“The issue of who has to pay for it is something that plays out in every city, more or less when there is an arena or stadium discussion,” he said.

“In almost all cases, the public sector is the first to blink and throw money into a project that won’t recoup the cost.”

“Really, it’s just a matter of how much money the City of Calgary wants to give to this project at this point, realizing that it’s not getting it back? How much does it want to sell to the taxpayers that this is what you’re going to sit for, too.” though the vast majority of the city’s residents aren’t going to use that arena in any way?”

CTV contacted CSEC on Wednesday to ask if the owners were still interested in reviving the deal. There was no response to the publication deadline.

The original agreement was signed in December 2019. In it, the city and CSEC agreed to split the cost of the $550 million project. When the price tag rose to over $630 million, the Flames ownership group declined and canceled the deal. It officially expired on New Year’s Eve 2021.

Earlier this month, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met with CSEC to discuss the arena, among other things. At the time, he told reporters he hoped a deal could be struck.

“I’m always optimistic,” Bettman said. “There’s nothing going on right now that could indicate that there will be an immediate solution, but I hope everyone can figure this out.”

Bettman also warned that without a new arena or an updated Saddledome, Calgary would miss major NHL events such as All-Star games.

The Saddledome is the second oldest NHL arena, only after Madison Square Garden in New York.

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