Calgary says it will pay for one-third of $555-million arena for Flames

The City of Calgary is offering to pay for one-third of the cost of a new NHL arena.

In response to the Calgary Flames breaking off talks for a new rink earlier this week, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi revealed details Friday of what the city proposes to pay for a building expected to cost $555 million.

The Flames haven’t made their counter-proposal public, but have indicated they want the city to pay closer to half the cost. Flames president Ken King has said team owners pulled out of negotiations because they’ve been spectacularly unproductive.

“This is of course an emotional issue for many people,” Nenshi said. “I had a poster of Theo Fleury on my wall when I was a kid. I’ve been a Flames fan for a long time.

“We have to put the emotions aside and we have to determine what is the right thing for Calgary, what is the right thing for the citizens, what is the right thing for the taxpayer.

“Calgarians have told us, ‘We’re willing to make an investment. We’re not willing to give away the farm.’”

The city proposed paying $185 million up front, with the Flames contributing the same amount and the other third coming from a surcharge on tickets to events in the new building. The Flames’ owners would own the new arena and receive all revenues from it, but the city asks that they pay property tax.

Nenshi added the city would bear approximately $200 million in indirect costs, which are infrastructure and public transit expansion to the area on the downtown east side.

While King has denied making the arena an election issue, the timing of the team’s withdrawal seems designed to put pressure on the mayor and councillors ahead of next month’s civic election. King was expected to hold a media availability later Friday.

The Flames’ current arena — the Scotiabank Saddledome — opened its doors in 1983.

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