Bettman says the "city just pushed it too hard" in failed Flames arena deal

Feb 5 2022, 11:11 pm

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said the City of Calgary “pushed it too hard” in its collapsed negotiation with the Calgary Flames over a new events centre.Ā 

Bettman made the comments when addressing media in Las Vegas on Friday.

“I think the sooner people figure out how to get a new arena the better it’ll be, particularly because the cost of building a building keeps going up. These delays haven’t been helpful,” Bettman said.Ā 

“I know, and I’ve been privy every step of the way to the negotiations, probably more privy at one point when Mayor Nenshi was involved then some people may have liked, but the Flames ownership has tried mightily to get a deal done and to go the extra mile

“And I think the city just pushed it too hard, too far, and it didn’t make sense.”

Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek, elected in October, announced in a series of tweets on December 21 thatĀ Flames owner Murray Edwards informer herĀ of ā€œthe Flames’ intention to pull the plug on the Event Centre deal.ā€

ā€œSince I was elected Mayor, Administration and my office have been working with CSEC to mitigate any additional costs,ā€ she said. ā€œThe City came to the table to assist with $6.4M in roadways leaving $9.7M for the Flames. Based on this gap, CSEC informed me they are walking away from our deal.

ā€œOn a project worth over $650M, to have one party walk away for 1.5% of the value of the deal is staggering.

ā€œI wanted Calgarians to be the first to know. I am as disappointed as all of you that this is the way things are ending.ā€

The FlamesĀ responded to the mayor’s claims in a statement the next day.

ā€œWhile CSEC was prepared to move forward in the face of escalating construction costs and assume the unknown future cost risks,ā€ reads the statement, ā€œCSEC was not prepared to fund the infrastructure and climate costs that were introduced by the City following our July agreement and were not included in the $608.5 million and are not included in the current cost estimate of $634 million.ā€

The deal was officially dead when neither the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation ā€” the parent company of the Calgary Flames ā€” nor the City of Calgary waived construction conditions on the Project Framework Agreement prior to December 31.Ā 

With that, the project and all associated agreements were terminated.

“I know there’s been a change of administrations, but each time they made an accommodation to try to deal with the things that the city was asking for that weren’t part of the basic deal, the deal kept getting more and more expensive, and frankly wasn’t what they had agreed to,” Bettman said.

“At some point you have to say enough is enough, and if this gives everybody an opportunity to take a fresh look at how to build the building, where to build the building in Calgary, maybe that’s not a bad thing.

“Yes, the city is a free agent, but so is the club and that’s good.”

The Flames will continue to play out of the Saddledome, which by technicality is the second-oldest building in the NHL after Madison Square Garden, which underwent a $1 billion renovation completed in 2013.

Calgary has operated out of the aging Saddledome since 1983.Ā 

“My only concern, and it’s not a short-term concern but a longer-term concern…the Saddledome needs work, which the city is going to have to put a bunch of money into,” Bettman said.

Aaron VickersAaron Vickers

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