Calgary arena project hits snag due to budget issues

Calgary's arena project hits a snag, with budget issues causing work to be put on hold just months before the start of construction.

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — The Calgary Event Centre project has reportedly hit a major speed bump, according to the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC).

In a statement sent to 660 NEWS on Wednesday, the CMLC said budget issues will cause a delay.

“At this early stage in the project, there is a difference in the current budget estimate and the program requirements for the facility. Given the significance and importance of the project, the parties have jointly agreed to pause the project team to allow time to resolve these challenges,” said CMLC President and CEO Kate Thompson. “The decision to take this pause is the responsible and prudent approach to ensure we find the best solutions to move the project forward successfully, without incurring any additional costs on the project while these discussions progress.”

Thompson added that all parties are working together to find a path forward.

On Tuesday, city councillors were involved in a long discussion behind closed doors about capital projects. When they returned to the chambers in the evening, there was a push by Ward 11 Councillor Jeromy Farkas to make some parts of the meeting public and said that Calgarians would be “furious” to learn about what had been talked about.

“I didn’t support the arena in the first place because of the unrealistic budget and the very real chance of taxpayers being on the hook for cost overruns,” said Farkas. “I have to think though, for better or for worse, a deal is a deal and the city should honour the commitment it made. But, we owe it to Calgarians to be crystal clear and transparent about this project.”

Farkas added that Calgarians deserve to know about every dollar spent on the project.

“If more money is required to bail out the arena project, then where is that money coming from? Is it coming from services that have to be cut? Is it coming from taxes that have to be increased? There’s a real significant consequence to mismanagement on this,” he said.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi briefly responded to the situation Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s not uncommon for major capital projects to be at this stage. Far better to have these issues sorted out at this stage than to have unexpected cost overruns after construction has begun,” Nenshi said in a statement sent to 660 NEWS.

The arena was due to start construction in August, and conceptual plans for the design of the building are also overdue.

In 2019, the city agreed with Calgary Sports and Entertainment to split the cost on a $550 million replacement to the ageing Saddledome, with it due to open in 2024.

The new arena fits in with a wider plan to revamp Stampede Park, including the construction of an expanded BMO convention centre and the now-completed destruction of the Stampede Corral.

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