CalgaryNext resting, not dead, says head of Flames organization

Despite recent comments by Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the CalgaryNext project isn't dead, according to the president and CEO of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation — which owns all of Calgary's major sports franchises. 

"If you look at the record, you will see there's a process and it's a council-directed process and that process is still in place, and as long as we abide by that process I think resting is the right term for our parrot," said Ken King, referencing a Monty Python skit about a not-so-lively bird.

King was responding to comments made Monday by Nenshi saying the CalgaryNext project in the West Village — which includes an arena, stadium and fieldhouse — was dead.

Mayor is just one vote on council

He said the mayor has made his views on the project clear from the get-go, and although Nenshi is an important voice, he's just one vote on city council and doesn't get to unilaterally make the decision. 

"That's not really the arrangement we made," said King. "But we're fine. Look, there's lots of ways to be right. We just need a place to play. We want to participate, we want to be partners in that. I think we'll be successful."

Council is looking at the option for a new arena in the Victoria Park area, near the current Saddledome, and King said he's happy to participate in that process. 

Evan Woolley, the councillor whose ward includes both Victoria Park and and the West Village, said no decisions have been made on the fate of CalgaryNext. 

"While dead might be a little bit past what council directed, the Flames have agreed to hit the pause button on CalgaryNext, but this remains a council decision that has yet to come," he said. 

"Unless the mayor knows something I don't, that decision still has yet to be made."

$1.8 billion

The estimated cost of the CalgaryNext project ranges from $1.3 billion to $1.8 billion, including cleanup of the creosote-contaminated land along the Bow River west of downtown. 

Those numbers raised eyebrows and helped convince council to look at a Plan B. 

"We need to get something done one way or another, some place or another," said King. "There's lots of pressure."

Woolley said he's looking forward to the comparisons between the West Village CalgaryNext project and a potential new arena in Victoria Park.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was in Calgary earlier this month to push for the project, calling the Saddledome old, antiquated and inefficient.

Once Detroit finishes its new arena, the Saddledome will technically be the second oldest arena still being used by an NHL team, although the oldest, Madison Square Garden in New York City, underwent a $1 billion rebuild in 2011-2013.

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