In August, The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation unveiled a proposal for a new multi-sport complex in West Village to accommodate the professional and amateur sports teams that they own and operate. Many Calgarians are excited about new facilities where they can enjoy watching their Flames, Stampeders, Hitmen, and Roughnecks play.
The proposal, CalgaryNEXT, requires the City of Calgary to contribute public money and land. The proposal estimates that the new facilities would cost around $900 million. The ownership group would contribute $200 million dollars, with the rest coming from The City, general and special taxes, and a Community Revitalization Levy (CRL).
Calgarians are proud of their teams, and so am I. They contribute greatly to Calgary’s identity and civic pride. However, several critical questions and considerations need to be addressed:
• The current proposal does not factor in the value of the land.
• Portions of the proposed location are contaminated. Studies are required to determine the extent of the contamination and clean-up costs, which could exceed several hundred million dollars. Who pays for the clean up?
• Who pays for the unfunded components of the project, including major transportation and utility upgrades? Can the transportation system handle the intensity of use generated by a multi-sport complex?
• The costs of repurposing or demolishing the Saddledome and McMahon Stadium have not been included. Is downtown the best location for a field house? How will the loss of the Saddledome concession revenues impact the viability of the Calgary Stampede?
• A CRL is essentially a loan on future tax revenue, generated within a fixed boundary and term. Can West Village generate sufficient CRL dollars to fund the infrastructure required for redevelopment of West Village, plus an arena?
• CRLs can be high-risk ventures. To mitigate risk, a CRL needs a stable financial anchor. Where will the tax revenue come from to repay the CRL, considering the current Saddledome does not pay property tax?
• Should public dollars be used to fund a private, for-profit corporation? Will the corporation share revenues?
I do not doubt that the need for modern sports and entertainment facilities exists. The City must first take a step back though, answer fundamental questions about the future of West Village, and require a comprehensive business case to ensure that this proposal is in the best interests of Calgarians. I look forward to reviewing a business case and discussing the proposal with Ward 7 residents, the ownership group and my Council colleagues.
There will be a lot more to come on this topic – for updates, please visit druhfarrell.ca.
This content represents the personal views and opinions of the Ward Councillor and should not be taken as a statement of policy of The City of Calgary. The inclusion of any external content does not imply endorsement by The City of Calgary.