Hockey commentator Ron MacLean’s on-air comment about a new NHL arena in Calgary caught members of city council by surprise over the weekend.
After Edmonton’s recent approval of a $600-million arena plan that includes $219 million in public funds, MacLean said Saturday that “Calgary is looking for some kind of a plan as well.”
He offered few details other than to say “for sure it’s a downtown arena” and “the plan will be rolled out in three to four months’ time.”
Ald. Ray Jones, council’s representative on the Saddledome Foundation board, said Sunday he hadn’t heard of any new arena plans and the Flames have not made any requests to the city to that effect.
If such a proposal were to include a request for financial involvement from the city, Jones said the matter should be put to the citizens of Calgary.
“I would love to do it with a plebiscite,” he said. “Let the people of the city decide: Do you want your taxpayer dollars spent on this?”
Ald. Andre Chabot doubted a plebiscite would be necessary, noting polls within the last few years have shown Calgarians are overwhelmingly opposed to putting tax dollars towards a new arena.
“I think the general public is of the opinion that it’s a fairly lucrative industry – certainly insofar as the players and the kind of money they’re making – and they don’t feel that they should be contributing to their profitability,” Chabot said.
Ald. Gord Lowe said that sentiment is reflected around the council table.
“As far as I know there is precisely no appetite in council to put public money into a private venture,” he said.
The Calgary Flames told Metro on Sunday the club had no immediate comment on the matter.