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Braid: Flames asked city to cover more than half arena cost, King says 'it's very fair'

The Calgary Flames wanted the city to pay 52 per cent of the total cost of a new $500-million to $600-million arena north of the Stampede grounds, say sources connected to city hall.

That’s sharply at variance with the city proposal, to be unveiled Friday, which called for one-third from the city, one-third from Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp., and one-third from a ticket surcharge. 

Mayor Naheed Nenshi has already indicated the Flames wanted a higher than one-third percentage from the city, without giving details.

He called the Flames’ position “eminently unreasonable,” apparently in reference to the 52 per cent.

But Flames CEO Ken King says nobody should be surprised the Flames want both parties to pay roughly equal share. “That’s basically what we proposed with CalgaryNEXT — 50-50. It’s very fair.

“So, it should come as no surprise that any model we could put forward in Victoria Park is similar to the one put forward in CalgaryNEXT.” 

CalgaryNEXT was the grand multi-facility proposal for the west end, no longer in negotiation but still technically on the table.

King also says the city’s proposal — one-third each from the Flames, the city and a ticket surcharge — “means that we actually pay three-thirds. Calgary Sports and Entertainment would ultimately pay the whole thing.”

He says the city wants to be repaid its share of the cash and also capture the ticket surcharge revenue.

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The Flames stunned city hall by declaring the talks dead on Tuesday. King was offended that Nenshi implied there would be a deal, when the Flames felt there had been no progress and no meetings since July.

The city is prohibited from releasing details of the Flames’ offer because of a confidentiality agreement, but can talk about its own position. That’s scheduled for a news conference with Nenshi Friday morning . 

King said, “I am always disappointed when you exchange information in situations like this and they see fit to leak. There’s only one place that information could come from. I just want to express my disappointment with this process.”

He wouldn’t say whether the Flames would release their own documents.

Sources also say the sports company at one point asked for veto power over development in Victoria Park. Any projects would have to match its own vision for the area.

The request, which apparently came in a letter rather than as part of a formal offer, was made in February. Sources say that may have been early bluster, perhaps related to testy relations between the Flames and the Stampede.

“No, that’s not about a veto at all,” King says. “We’d be looking for an opportunity to participate, that’s all. We have a development partner and would be looking for opportunities in the area.”

Sources also gave general confirmation to reports that the Flames didn’t want to pay property tax or rent. King suggested that simplifies the facts because there are other ways to pay, such as a lease.

Among many points that remain unclear is who would own the arena. It isn’t certain to be a Saddledome arrangement, where the city owns the facility and administers it through the Saddledome Foundation.

One unanswered question is whether the Flames’ details are even the parties’ final proposals before the breakdown of talks. Was there never any improvement of offers over months of negotiations?

This has now become so public, and potentially toxic, that Calgarians have a right to see it.

Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald

dbraid@postmedia.com

Twitter: @DonBraid

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http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/braid-flames-asked-city-to-cover-more-than-half-arena-cost-king-says-its-very-fair