The Calgary Flames are far from the first sports franchise to demand its home city shill out millions in taxpayer money for a new arena, but they might rank among the most audacious.
According to The Globe and Mail, the Flames are demanding Calgary pay for more than a third of the new arena they’re demanding, while exempting the team from rent and property tax and asking for none of the cash to be repaid.
The city’s response to this proposal: Um, no.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi took his turn in front of the microphones Wednesday: “The city has a very fair offer on the table, I think one that many Calgarians – most Calgarians – will see as eminently reasonable,” he said. “And there is another offer on the table that most Calgarians will see as eminently unreasonable.”
Calgary has offered to finance one-third of the arena, providing cash instalments over a number of years, a source told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday. That money would have to be repaid, the source said. The Flames, according to this plan, would cover another third and the final chunk would come from ticket surcharges. Nenshi, on Wednesday, confirmed this structure is “part” of the deal.
“The city has always negotiated in good faith and we remain at the table ready to negotiate in good faith,” Nenshi said. “Council understands the importance of the Flames to this city. Council understands the importance of having the Flames downtown. We’ve worked very hard to come up with a deal that makes sense in this economy without impacting people’s taxes.”
Nenshi, who has been mayor of Calgary since 2010, has been a vocal opponent of publicly financed stadiums and has insisted throughout the negotiation with the team that the Flames repay any money they get from the city. The team, naturally, is playing hardball, making noise about relocating in an attempt to strong-arm Nenshi into caving and offering up public money for a new building, such as the one Edmonton just built the Oilers.
The Flames currently play in the Scotiabank Saddledome, which was built in 1983 and is now the second oldest venue in the NHL, behind only the recently renovated Madison Square Garden. A new arena in Victoria Park would allow Calgary to keep its team and also position itself to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, but as long as the two sides remain so drastically far apart, it seems unwise to hold your breath.