No CalgaryNEXT, no Calgary Flames.
That is the warning from Calgary Flames president and CEO Ken King, who said the hockey team will exit if it can’t work out a deal to build a new stadium.
And, he said, this is not a threat.
“There would be no threat to move, we would just move, and it would be over. And I’m trying my level best to make sure that day never comes, frankly,” King said during an April interview on Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto.
“If people smarter than us in more powerful positions than ours don’t feel that we’re a critical piece of the social, economic and cultural part of our city, then who are we to argue with that?”
The controversial CalgaryNEXT proposal for the East Village is ambitious. It includes an arena, stadium and field house. But it also has critics, including Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who said the project is already dead.
Instead, the city is considering building a new arena near the existing Saddledome stadium in Victoria Park, the current home of the Flames.
King said he’s happy to participate in that process.
Some critics have pointed to the high cost for CalgaryNEXT, which would require public funding.
Threatening to move the Flames could persuade Calgarians to part with their tax dollars, according to New York-based author and investment analyst Martin Fridson.
“It’s emotion overriding the economic aspects of it,” he said. “And that’s what they’re counting on. So I think it’s a highly successful, highly effective tactic,” he told the CBC.
The estimated cost of the CalgaryNEXT project ranges from $1.3 billion to $1.8 billion, including cleanup of the land along the Bow River west of downtown, according to a Flames estimate.