Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Calgary Flames’ arena proposal tax heavy: mayor Naheed Nenshi

The Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. The City of Calgary is offering to pay for one-third of the cost of a new NHL arena.

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Calgary's mayor says the Flames' financial proposal for a new NHL arena places a heavy tax burden on the city.

Calgary Sports and Entertainment (CSEC) and the city have gone public with what they would pay and what they think the other side should pay, in the wake of CSEC pulling the plug on "spectacularly unproductive" negotiations.

The looming civic election Oct. 16 has turned up the temperature on what's become a public back and forth, even though the Flames insist they're done talking.

Story continues below advertisement

CSEC declared via a press release and newspaper ads Thursday they'd put $275-million of owners' money into a $500-million building and the city should raise the remaining $225-million through a community revitalization levy.

A CRL allows the city to divert property taxes from new development that would theoretically spring up around a new arena into paying for it.

"That's tax money. CRL is taxes," Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said Friday at city hall.

"That is straight up property tax from people who are in that neighbourhood. It's property tax the city wouldn't otherwise have.

"The Flames would like that property tax to be paid by someone other than them. They are not willing to pay any rent, or property tax or any revenue back to the city in their proposal."

CSEC contends, however, that their $275-million equates to 35 years worth of rent.

The city proposed a three-way split on the cost of a $555-million arena, with the city and the Flames each paying $185-million and the remaining third raised from a surcharge on tickets.

Story continues below advertisement

The city said the Flames would control the new arena and receive all revenue from it.

Flames president Ken King insists the city's offer amounts to the team paying the entire cost, or more, because CSEC considers a ticket surcharge paid by users revenue that belongs to the team and because the city wants CSEC to pay property tax.

CSEC owns the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders, Western Hockey League's Hitmen and National Lacrosse League's Roughnecks in addition to the NHL's Flames.

The ownership group is comprised of Murray Edwards, Alvin Libin, Clayton Riddell, Allan Markin and Jeff McCaig.

CSEC has said the owners "will strive to operate, as we have for the last 34 years, in the Saddledome for as long as we believe it is feasible."

Nenshi, who is running for a third term, says the city is willing to keep negotiating with CSEC on a new arena.

Story continues below advertisement

"As long as I'm the mayor, we will not leave that table," he said. "These negotiations are hard. They should be hard. We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.

"I believe, you don't have a temper tantrum, you don't run away. You sit down and you figure out the right way to do it. I hope we will be able to continue to do that."

King is scheduled to speak Monday to Calgary's chamber of commerce, where he is expected to field more questions about arena negotiations.

The arena's proposed location in Victoria Park just north of Scotiabank Saddledome is part of a larger district east of downtown undergoing revitalization. A CRL is already being implemented for the East Village.

Nenshi says the $150-million the CRL is expected to raise over the remaining 10 years of its term has been allocated to other projects in the East Village and can't go towards a new arena.

"That $150-million that's already spoken for is based on development we think will happen there," the mayor explained.

"An additional $225-million, the only way to do that is if you have a heck of a lot more development than we are forecasting.

"In a world where you have 30 per cent occupancy downtown, it's hard to imagine in the short term. Or you just extend the CRL forever, which just means its property tax money."

Edmonton's arena cost $483-million to build, but the entire project that includes a cavernous hall leading into the arena, a community rink, a pedestrian corridor, an LRT connection and the land came to $613-million, according to the City of Edmonton's website.

The city expects to raise $231-million via a CRL to help pay for it. The Oilers ownership group contributed $165-million to the arena and the hall in a combination of cash and lease payments.

Prince Harry meets with Invictus Games athletes (The Canadian Press)
Report an error
Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.