Where does one begin?
The ‘Ball Dropping’ New Year’s Eve in New York always brings a sense of hope for the upcoming year. But 2022 began, as did the previous year, with cancelled events due to more pandemic and another uncertain year ahead. We had hoped to bid ‘good riddance’ to 2021 and what came with it.
One would think after almost reaching a full second year of everything cancelled that could be – from travel, weddings, sports events, funerals, conferences, and everything involving human contact – what more could happen, or possibly be cancelled in 2022?
Calgary woke up January 1, 2022, to the news that the much-anticipated Event Centre scheduled to break ground early in the year had been ‘cancelled’. We heard claims of a Climate Emergency targeted at our main industry and property tax increases all in week one. But the Event Centre? No one was more surprised than members of Council besides the Mayor who voted against the final deal in July 2021.
I find it embarrassing that Calgary for all its prosperity over the years has the oldest football stadium and hockey arena in Canada. We don’t even have the field house that has been talked about for years, and for which money has been set aside – somewhere! One wonders if there is a pattern here. We claim to like sports but have an adversity to investing in world-class facilities for the sake of economic prosperity. Or is it that the city has difficulty working within a business partnership arrangement that believes in cost management and avoiding overruns?
The Flames, in this arrangement, would have been the largest leaseholder – nothing more. In the end, the City of Calgary would own the Event Centre but only pay for less than half – all with Rivers District Levies. The Event Centre was the anchor project to an entire revitalization plan for Victoria Park.
Contrary to ‘naysayers’, professional sports and entertainment centres do drive economic activity through company relocations, tourism and high-quality workforces. Just ask Winnipeg how giving up their team worked out for them. It took 10 years to get another team while their population decreased, and they slipped into a non-growth economy.
While the Flames owners say they will stay and play in the Saddledome, how long will that really last in a 39-year-old building with a crumbling roof that will cost $200M alone to repair? Where is the civic pride? What happens to the Red Mile? Drive by and count the Flames shirts on people having fun cheering for ‘their’ team. Could Calgarians be forced to cheer for the Edmonton Oilers?
This isn’t just about hockey. It is about the entire planned entertainment and cultural district. What happens to the 3,000 people who won’t have work and the loss of $72 million to amateur sports, to name a few?
Is this loss worth the proclaimed Climate Emergency influence? Indeed, our climate will change – our economic climate! Entrepreneurs like to be around like-minded people in like-minded cities. It’s inspiring!