Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi fired back at Brian Burke, after the Flames president was critical regarding the city’s lack of support for funding a new arena.
Burke fielded questions at the Canadian Club of Calgary on Wednesday, expressing dismay over the fact that many other professional sports franchises are given significant public funding in stadium deals while “our little city is a little smarter than all those people and we’re not going to do it.”
Those comments were not well received by the Calgary Mayor.
“I do think, when you’re sitting opposite from somebody at the negotiating table, insulting their intelligence and saying they’re not very smart, kind of an interesting way to continue negotiations,” Nenshi told the Calgary Sun.
While the Edmonton Oilers weren’t explicitly mentioned by Burke, the team did begin play at Rogers Place in the 2016-17 season, with the City of Edmonton contributing $313 million to the downtown project — something Nenshi isn’t willing to do to get the Flames a new building.
“I want it to end in something that doesn’t look like Edmonton, that is a deal where any public money is very clear and it absolutely leads to public benefit,” he said. “They had a very different situation. They had a derelict part of their city. They hadn’t had a skyscraper built in the downtown in who knows how long.
“They needed to try and really revitalize their downtown.”
Negotiations for a facility to replace the Calgary Saddledome have been ongoing for the last several years, with the Flames’ proposed CalgaryNEXT project being rejected by the city after research concluded the development would cost more than the projected $890-million figure given by Flames CEO Ken King.
Burke said he felt the city should have been thankful for the proposal, another point of contention for Nenshi.
“We should say thank you for the opportunity to spend $1.4 billion to $1.8 billion of taxpayers’ money on private business? I don’t think so.”
The Flames released a statement from King later on Wednesday:
“Brian Burke runs hockey operations for the Calgary Flames and he and many Calgarians have strong views about this topic. However, he is not our spokesperson regarding a new events centre for our city. We remain committed to our dialogue with the city and very optimistic we will get to a positive conclusion. We admire everyone’s enthusiasm on this subject.”