An artist’s rendering of a rejuvenated Stampede Trail, including a proposed new arena.
Courtesy, the City of Calgary.
Tomorrow, my city council colleagues and I have an opportunity to change the course of our city for the better.We will vote on whether to proceed with a proposed $550-million event centre in east Victoria Park, funded through a 50/50 partnership between the City of Calgary and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp.But we will actually be voting on much more than that. We will be voting on a vision and plan to move Calgary forward.During my time on council, I have consistently heard from Calgarians who are frustrated by the lack of direction and optimism in our city.We now have a chance to do something about that.The deal comes at a challenging time for our city. Council has trimmed $60 million from its operating budget: providing relief for small businesses while managing the cost of our own operations. Many families are still dealing with the ongoing effects of a provincewide economic downturn. Given those factors, it’s not unreasonable to ask whether the city should spend $275 million over the next number of years for an event centre.But the reality of this deal is that we’re not giving anyone anything. We, the people of Calgary, will own this facility. We will own the land it sits on. We will have new revenue streams to provide a return to taxpayers.This is a fair deal for the citizens of Calgary. It is the right deal for the time.The 50/50 partnership leverages $275 million in private investment. It will create a facility for significant community events, allow us to attract major performing artists, enhance the Stampede experience, and be the new home for our great sports teams — the Flames, Hitmen and Roughnecks. It will spur the development of the culture and entertainment district, help attract and retain young talent in our re-energized city, and solidify Calgary’s place as a vibrant destination for visitors from around the world. The agreement itself provides direct and indirect returns to support the city’s investment.Some have argued that giving the public only seven days to provide feedback on the proposed deal simply isn’t enough. The reality is that this agreement has been shaped by 14 months of review, analysis, public input and robust negotiations — not to mention several years of talks between the parties. Council has approved the committee’s workplan, framework for negotiations and financial framework. The council-directed process was followed in arriving at this agreement. Now it is time for council to make a decision.The agreement is not something brought to the table last week and blindly accepted by the city. The event centre assessment committee was put in place over a year ago and has been working diligently with the Calgary Stampede, Calgary Municipal Land Corp., Calgary Sports and Entertainment and other partners to create the agreement before us. It has done so in a manner that is open, transparent and consistent with the principles set by council. The fundamental terms and conditions of the conditional agreement can be found on the city’s website.We’ve known for years that Calgary needs to replace the aging Saddledome. The topic has been debated endlessly on talk radio and TV, in newspapers and on social media. In that light, the timeframe for the public and council to receive the information, process it, and reach a conclusion is more than enough. And, let’s be honest, those calling for delay are only interested in killing the deal. It’s the same tactic used by pipeline opponents, and we should be under no illusion about their agenda.Thankfully, most Calgarians understand that investments of this nature allow us to retain our rightful place as a great city, and that is why I am positive the majority of residents agree with me: the time has come for this agreement.It is a fair deal for the Calgary of today, and a transformative deal for the Calgary of tomorrow.It will inject energy and excitement into our culture and entertainment district.It will attract investment, be a catalyst for further development, and enhance our reputation on the global stage.It will benefit all Calgarians for decades to come.That is why I am voting Yes.Jeff Davison is the councillor for Ward 6 in Calgary and chair of the event centre assessment committee.