Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Flames President Brian Burke Says Calgary Behind the Times on Arenas, Stadiums

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Flames President Brian Burke Says Calgary Behind the Times on Arenas, Stadiums

Article excerpt

Burke says Calgary lags behind on arena

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CALGARY - Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke says taxpayers in other Canadian cities recognize the need for new arenas and stadiums, so why not in Calgary?

The long-time NHL executive addressed the Canadian Club of Calgary on Wednesday with his trademark salt and spice.

Burke refused requests for media interviews, but he was grilled by club members on various topics in a question-and-answer session after a speech.

A new arena for the Flames dominated the discussion.

In a heated exchange with audience member Chris MacRae, a bristling Burke said 'you're saying you don't care if the Calgary Flames leave? You don't think we could find a place to go?"

Almost two years after the Flames pitched the CalgaryNext proposal to city council, the two sides are still negotiating location and who should pay for what.

"I can point to examples where public contribution has been an amazing boost to the city, or state, or province, or all of the above," Burke said. "I think most intelligent people get this."

His examples were Edmonton's arena for the Oilers that opened last year, as well new football stadiums in Regina, Winnipeg and Ottawa for their CFL teams. The Flames also own the Stampeders.

"It's discouraging when other venues cheerfully, willingly construct venues, hockey rinks in Manitoba, football stadiums in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, hockey arenas in Alberta, but our little city is a little smarter than all those people and we're not going to do it," Burke said.

"We remain committed to a solution here in Calgary. We're optimistic we'll get one here in Calgary, but keep in mind we're playing against teams in the U.S. that have their venues built for them almost 100 per cent cost and have favourable leases."

"It's discouraging when you hear someone from the city say that we have zero economic impact. We think it's hundreds of millions of dollars.

The initial CalgaryNext project proposed in 2015 included an arena, football stadium and public fieldhouse costing $890 million.

Flames owners offered $200 million of their money and proposed a $250-million loan be repaid through a ticket surcharge.

City council declared CalgaryNext would cost a lot more than that -- around $1. …

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