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ARENA DEAL IN JEOPARDY

Impasse with city halts plans for new facility

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

Ongoing negotiations towards the building of a new arena to replace the aging Scotiabank Saddledome, the oldest building in the NHL, are at an end.

"We have determined that we're no longer going to be pursuing a new facility," team president and CEO Ken King announced Tuesday in the wake of a Flames' ownership meeting. "The owners group are pretty clear, pretty definite, on their view on that.

"The building's very important. We've been working on it for a long time.

"But it doesn't look like we're going to get there. And I think it's time we stopped pretending and we're a little honest with our fans and our city on that fact.

"McMahon (Stadium) will continue to house a great football team. And the Scotiabank Saddledome will continue to host a couple million people a year, and we'll just go on and run our business and do what we can to figure out what the future will look like later."

King added that Tuesday's declaration does not mean the franchise is actively seeking a new home.

"We're not talking about relocation. We're talking about training camp. 

"We're not shopping.

"We're not coming here with an agenda.

"This is the business side, the boring side. It's important. You've got to be viable, be able to secure our long-term future, but I think our fans want to know if our two goalies can stop pucks, if we can compete and beat the guys up north.

"Apparently we can't beat them on the building front but maybe we can beat them on the ice."

When asked if he was surprised by the city's stance in finding common ground on an agreement, King said he was "disappointed."

"I've almost misled our city a little bit. I've been very optimistic, felt really strongly that our position was really fair.

"You need to put your best foot forward, which we've done, and our ownership are so committed to this community in so many different ways you can imagine the anxiety they went through in terms of coming to the decision, and coming to the realization that you can't make a deal.

"We'll just operate as long as we can and work as hard as we can. We've made it work for 36 years. I guess we're going to have to make it work a little while longer.

"We're going to make sure (the Dome) is safe, it's secure but unfortunately it won't be as heavily populated with the events as we'd normally wish to have here.

"We'll have some events. We'll have some concerts. We'll have some hockey games and we'll have some lacrosse games. We'll have some community events and we'll do our damndest to win the Stanley Cup and hold it over our heads here, too."

Video: King says team is no longer pursuing arena deal

 

The last time the two parties discussed the city-proposed Victoria Park solution to the issue was late July. The overall talks King described as "spectacularly unproductive."

"I thought we really had something that would work and it would seem pretty clear that it's not," he said. "I think there's a different view of what's fair and of what the kind of participation should be."

The Flames' announcement comes the day after Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi spoke of creating a sporting, cultural and entertainment in the area which, he said, would ideally include a new arena.

King phoned Nenshi's office Monday night following the Mayor's announcement to discuss those remarks, hoping for progress, and spoke to his chief of staff.

"Maybe the signal was that they were prepared to do our deal. It was very clear they were not."

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was on hand Tuesday, having been invited by the team's ownership to its meeting for input.

"One of the dynamics here that strikes me as different, particularly say from Edmonton,'' said Bettman, "is I don't get a sense from the city that there's a commitment to or belief in the importance of having the right infrastructure in having a major-league sports team.

"Reasonable people can differ on the importance for what it's worth but I don't see the same level of city commitment here that I've seen in other places.

"I'm not here on a soap box preaching. The city council and mayor will decide whatever they want and that's what they're empowered to do."

Bettman said the team has done what it can.

"Based on what I know of the negotiations, which is extensive, the ownership of the Flames has made a generous, realistic, fair assessment of what can be done, and their commitment goes into the hundreds of millions of dollars, but if you don't think having a new arena or having a major-league hockey team here is important, then you're not going to commit the resources on behalf of the city."

The Flames, he added, are a vital part of the fabric of the city.

"But they're going to hang on as long as they can. That's not a prospect that thrills them. This is a franchise that can't compete with, say, Edmonton because they don't have the resources.

"I don't know what the long-term future holds but I know these are people who went through difficult times 15-20 years ago that have hung on. But I think that there's a resignation that there's no ability to get a new building in this market so they're going to stop trying.

"In the short term, nobody should doubt the Flames' ownership's commitment to this community but at some point I envision without a new building there'll be consequences everybody's going to have to deal with."

Video: NHL commissioner reacts to news today from the Flames

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