Calgary inks $1.22B deal for event centre development

The various parties have agreed to share costs after budget disputes derailed previous plans.

Key Takeaways: 

  • City administration will begin formal discussions on definitive agreements with all parties, which is expected to be underway through spring and summer 2023.
  • The project includes an event centre, community rink, potential commercial development parcels, gathering spaces, street improvements and more. 
  • Work on an events centre was set to start in 2022, but the deal was terminated over budget disputes.

The Whole Story:

A $1.22-billion deal has been struck to develop Calgary’s Rivers District and create a new event centre. 

The city has reached agreements, in principle, with the province, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) and Calgary Stampede to proceed with a significant phase of the Culture + Entertainment District in downtown Calgary. 

The area will feature a suite of public amenities and public infrastructure, including a new community rink, improvements to public spaces and connections to the district, and commercial opportunities, all of which will be anchored by a new publicly-owned modern event centre.

The Calgary Construction Association (CCA) stated that the new development will not only enhance the entertainment options in the area but also provide significant economic benefits for the construction industry through jobs and follow-on investment in the Rivers’ District.

“The construction industry is poised to play a major role in bringing this new facility to life, and we are proud to support this project,” said the group. “Our association is committed to working closely with all stakeholders as an advisor to ensure that this project is delivered on time, within budget, and to the highest level of quality.”

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the project is another signal to the market that Calgary is making strong investments in its future.

“The partnership approach we have taken accomplishes two things: we are building an event centre, and we are also creating the public amenities needed within the Rivers District to build community and enhance quality of life for all Calgarians,” she said. 

Premier Danielle Smith stated that the new arena and event centre will be at the heart of Calgary’s sports, entertainment and cultural scene for generations, and will result in billions of dollars of economic activity and a higher quality of life for millions of Albertans.

A map shows the layout of plans to develop the Rivers District. – City of Calgary

“The memories experienced here by families and friends will contribute invaluably to the fabric and spirit of this city for decades,” she said. “Calgary is a vibrant world class city deserving and in need of world class facilities. Along with Edmonton’s Rogers Place, Alberta will now have two of the best and most modern event centres in all the world. 

She noted that one of her first actions as Premier was to publicly encourage all parties to return to the negotiating table and to appoint MLA Ric McIver along with her office’s executive director to work with the city and CESC to get a deal done.

“Six months later, we have results and I am grateful to the city, CESC, the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, MLA McIver and everyone else involved who came together to get this job done,” she said. “I can’t wait to get the project started.”

This project includes a number of improvements to the area:

  • New mobility connection: A new 4-lane underpass under the CP train tracks with wide sidewalks at 6th Street S.E., providing pedestrian, wheeling, and vehicle connections.
  • Community rink: Shared facility for public booking and training facility for CSEC teams with seating for 1,000.
  • Outdoor and indoor gathering spaces: More opportunity for community events onsite and in The District.
  • Event centre: New city-owned building, capable of accommodating “A-class” events and additional hosting space on a 10-acre parcel of land.
  • Street and public realm improvements: Improvements to 5 Street S.E and 15, 17 and 25 Avenues S.E.
  • Land: Potential commercial development parcels.

“We are excited to be part of the announcement of a new event centre and community rink that will both be home for the Calgary Flames, Calgary Hitmen, Calgary Roughnecks and Calgary Wranglers. And this announcement will help us put Calgary and the Province back on the map for all major North American concerts,” said CSEC President and CEO John Bean. “We would like to thank Premier Smith, Mayor Gondek, Councillor Sharp and CEO Cowley for their leadership in helping to create the vision for this project and the environment for it to proceed.”

The city stated that the agreements position the event centre to be a complementary anchor to the BMO Centre Expansion and together, these two modernized facilities will work with other improvements in the area, such as 17 Avenue S., Victoria Park Station, Central Library and Studio Bell, as well as the Arts Commons Transformation, to support and contribute to Calgary’s downtown recovery. It will be a place where visitors and a whole new generation of Calgarians will make lifelong memories.

The city of Calgary’s contribution is 44% of the total cost with the province of Alberta and CSEC contributing the remaining 56%. For every $1.00 invested by the city, the province and CSEC together will invest $1.28. CSEC, in addition to their event centre investment, will continue to make community sports payments, to the tune of $1.5 million annually.

Calgary Stampede will support land exchanges and transactions to ensure the district can grow and develop as planned in the Rivers District Master Plan. 

City administration will begin formal discussions on definitive agreements with all parties, which is expected to be underway through spring and summer 2023. The project team is preparing to begin the design and development of the event centre, as well as the supporting infrastructure in the area. 


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