Calgary Flames walk away from arena negotiations

Photo Credit: Ian Tomlinson/Getty – Deadspin

After years of negotiations regarding the Scotiabank Saddledome, the Calgary Flames have officially walked away from arena negotiations with the city and the incumbent mayor. The team is now threatening to relocate if they can’t get a new arena approved in the city.

President of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, the owner of the Flames, Ken King stated that the team is dropping its plans for a new arena in Calgary after the meeting on Wednesday, September 13th, with the mayor’s office didn’t go well; yesterday’s meeting was the first meeting since July between the two negotiating party. According to King, the meetings were spectacularly unproductive.

“They’ve been spectacularly unproductive meetings,” said King. “It’s unfortunate because I really thought we would have something that works.”

The ownership group’s’ decision to walk away from the table leaves the fate of the franchise in limbo. While the franchise isn’t shopping around for a new home (yet), it’s clear that the commissioner’s office isn’t above threatening to move the team if a deal isn’t reached to replace the 36-year old building — which was heavily remodeled between 1994-95.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi has publically the proposed financing package for a new arena and it appears that neither side is super far apart, which would appear to be why the team isn’t seriously considering relocation.

According to Nenshi, both sides agree that the city and the team will each cover a third of the cost of the proposed $550 million building with a surcharge on tickets covering the rest. The issue at the negotiating table has been the difference between how both sides agree to recover the cost to the taxpayers, and that’s the point what’s caused King to step away from negotiations.

Calgary Sports and Entertainment has abandoned its CalgaryNEXT — a joint football and hockey stadium complex — because the contamination of the land would have increased the cost of the project to $1.8 billion, from the proposed $890 million cost. So they’ve settled on Victoria Park as the site of the new building.

If the Flames were to relocate, they would become the first NHL team to “officially” relocate since the Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Winnipeg — the Islanders move to Brooklyn doesn’t count…for reasons. But they’d join the Arizona Coyotes as a team that’s currently unhappy with their arena situation — the Coyotes play in Glendale, miles and traffic away from Phoenix, which has caused major problems with their attendance. And that’s a big problem for the league because the NHL team’s make the majority of their revenue from ticket sales; which means that if the arena can’t keep up with the revenue needs of the team, they run into problems quicker than the other leagues.

While it makes sense for the Flames to be looking for a new building, 36-years in an arena is a long time (even with renovations); stepping away from the negotiating table at this point seems to be a drastic and unnecessary step.

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