Calgary council approves changes to arena project budget and manager, new rendering released

Calgary council has signed off on changes to the city's new Event Centre project, which includes a higher budget and a new project manager.

Documents released earlier this week show the estimated price tag for the arena has increased to $608 million, $58 million higher than what was agreed to in 2019.

Council was asked to vote on whether to approve an update budget framework that sees the city's share of the building capped at $287 million. The Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation -- the group that owns the Flames, otherwise known as CSEC -- will put $321 million towards constructing the building and will be responsible for any additional cost overruns, should those occur.

Because CSEC is taking on more risk, administration said, it should be able to pick its own project manager to replace the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation.

Council voted on seven different recommendations in agreeing to the updated deal.  All seven passed with varying vote totals.

"By most measures, this new deal is worse than it was before," said Coun. Jeromy Farkas, who is also a mayoral candidate in the upcoming municipal election.

"While it's good the taxpayers aren't going to be on the hook for more than another 12 and a half million dollars, it exposes us to a lot of risk by giving over control of the project management," he said.

Though the city's funding of construction itself will be no higher than $287 million, there are additional costs related to the project and planning in the area.

Factoring in flood mitigation and prep work, mobility costs to tie in with the community and the cost to demolish the Saddledome, the city's final bill will be around $322 million.

"The only cost overruns CSEC is willing to cover are for the building. Let's not forget there's a build realm around that building. What will we be responsible for into the future?" said Coun. Jyoti Gondek, another mayoral candidate who voted against the changes Wednesday.

Coun. Jeff Davison, who is also seeking the mayor's chair in October's election, said the deal today is a positive step forward for the city.

"This deal is a way better deal. The Flames organization will pay more, yet we own 100 per cent of the facility," he said.

An application for the new arena's development permit will have to be submitted by August 3 in order to begin construction in January 2022.