Breaking down the $1.22B Calgary arena deal: What's included, who's paying

How much is each part of this agreement projected to cost? Who’s paying for what? And how does this deal compare to previous plans for a new rink which went off the rails in 2019?

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The new arena for the Calgary Flames and surrounding amenities and improvements comes with an eye-popping price tag: $1.22 billion.

That cost is split three ways, between the City of Calgary, the Alberta government and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, which owns the Flames. The Calgary Stampede, which owns some of the Victoria Park land up for redevelopment, joined the deal as well through land trades.

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How much is each part of this agreement projected to cost? Who’s paying for what? And how does this deal compare to previous plans for a new rink which went off the rails in 2019? Here’s a look at the money involved in Tuesday’s massive arena deal.

Arena costs $800M; rest of cost to public spaces, infrastructure, community rink

The biggest piece of Tuesday’s deal is the new arena and events centre itself, where the Flames will play along with the Calgary Wranglers, Calgary Roughnecks and Calgary Hitmen. The building will also host concerts and other events.

That building is slated to cost $800 million on its own.

An adjacent, 1,000-seat community arena will serve as both bookable space for amateur athletes and a practice facility for the Flames and other teams. That item costs $52.8 million.

Parking for the arena runs at $35.4 million, while an enclosed plaza will cost $35.4 million. An “on-site public realm” will cost $28.7 million, with officials touting the development of indoor and outdoor spaces for community gatherings.

A broad envelope of transportation and infrastructure improvements is slated to cost $238.4 million. That includes utility work and demolition of the Saddledome.

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Roads improvements include a new four-lane underpass under the CP Rail train tracks at 6th Street S.E. with wide sidewalks. Money is also being earmarked for 5th Street S.E. and 15th, 17th and 25th Avenues S.E., all roads with access points to the Rivers District.

Finally, $58.5 million is allocated to unspecified other costs.

City takes on 44 per cent of the bill

The City of Calgary bears the greatest financial burden in the new deal, committing $537.3 million in total. That’s 44 per cent of the total cost.

That money will go toward the new event centre, parking, the enclosed plaza, and 25 per cent of the community rink.

The city portion of the deal comes from funds rolled over from the previous deal, with money from the Financial Stability Reserve making up the difference. Calgary Coun. Sonya Sharp said there would be no hike to property taxes to cover the city’s investment.

“No added taxes to taxpayers. There’s the question, that’s the answer,” Sharp said.

The city would own the new event centre.

Coun. Sonya Sharp speaks during Tuesday’s announcement.
Coun. Sonya Sharp speaks during Tuesday’s announcement. Photo by Darren Makowichuk /Postmedia

Flames ownership covers $356 million, paid over 35 years

CSEC will contribute $356 million, though the Flames ownership group won’t be paying the full bill immediately.

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They’re paying $40 million upfront, followed by annual payments that will start at $17 million and increase by one per cent each year over 35 years.

Much like the city, funding from CSEC will go toward the new event centre, parking, the enclosed plaza, and 25 per cent of the community rink.

Officials say the yearly payments mean CSEC’s part of the deal represents more than $750 million over the course of the 35-year term.

As well, CSEC is paying $1.5 million yearly to community sports programs as part of the deal.

John Bean, president and CEO of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, speaks at Tuesday’s announcement.
John Bean, president and CEO of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, speaks at Tuesday’s announcement. Photo by Azin Ghaffari /Postmedia

Province’s share covers off infrastructure

The provincial government’s portion of the deal totals $330 million.

The bulk of that — $300 million — goes towards the myriad land and infrastructure costs included in the agreement, including demolition of the Saddledome. The remaining $30 million funds 50 per cent of the community rink.

The provincial cabinet will need to approve that spending by August for the deal to proceed. That would happen after the expected May 29 provincial election.

Though the UCP is celebrating the deal, Concordia University sports economist Moshe Lander said it can’t be counted as final without the NDP also voicing their support, with that party having the potential to win the election next month.

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“This deal is not done until (NDP Leader) Rachel Notley has given a firm commitment to the project,” Lander said.

In a statement late Tuesday, Notley said her party would take time to review the deal before further comment, but she voiced concern about the project’s rising costs.

Premier Danielle Smith speaks at Tuesday’s announcement.
Premier Danielle Smith speaks at Tuesday’s announcement. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia

Calgary Stampede helps with land

The neighbouring Calgary Stampede isn’t making a financial contribution to the new arena development, but they did join the deal to facilitate land sales.

They’ve agreed to some unspecific land sales and transfers necessary for the project’s construction.

Stampede CEO Joel Cowley said he was “honoured” to be involved in the deal.

“Not only will it serve the citizens of Calgary, but it will provide us with a means to attract and host the world,” Cowley said.

Costs balloon since failed deal four years ago

The previous pact between Calgary and CSEC for an arena, inked in summer 2019, initially carried a $550-million price tag. That agreement was structured as a 50-50 split in costs.

Two years later, officials revealed that deal was almost $60 million over budget, and projected costs for the arena had climbed to $608.5 million.

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Cost escalations drove estimates to $634 million later that year, and the parties couldn’t agree to terms on how to share those extra costs.

But that bill pales now in comparison to the $1.22-billion deal arrived at Tuesday. The new deal costs about twice that of the original.

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It’s an increase chalked up both to an expanded scope for the deal as well as inflation.

“Construction projects always tend to have a lot of inflation built into them,” Lander said. “And some of that extra cost that’s not inflationary is to create that extra rink and the ancillary parts that will make it an event centre and not just an arena.”

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Twitter: @jasonfherring

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