Almost time to have your say on Calgarys new arena

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Now that the dust has settled on Calgary’s $550 million arena deal, the city is getting ready to hear from the people.The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation will be launching a public engagement period, starting in the new year, to gather opinions from residents on what they want in a replacement for the Saddledome.READ MORE: ‘A history-making day’: Calgary council approves new arenaIn a presentation to the Event Centre Assessment Committee at City Hall on Thursday, CMLC Vice President Clare LePan said they will not be holding open houses.“We have an opportunity for a very captive audience with events that take place in the Saddledome today,” said LePan. “Those types of opportunities are leveraging audiences, perhaps as an example, in the middle of a Flames game in doing engagement on specific areas.”The period will last ten weeks and could start in the first quarter of 2020.When the arena deal was approved by council at the end of July, it came with some dissent from a few councillors who were concerned the process was being rushed through with not enough public engagement.One of them is Ward 11’s Jeromy Farkas, one of four councillors to vote against the deal, and he still has misgivings on that earlier engagement.“Council fell extremely short in its obligation to consult Calgarians,” said Farkas. “I thought it was insulting to Calgarians.”But Farkas is positive this more extensive process will be a prime opportunity for people to have their voice heard, and ensure public money has public benefit as the city experiences various budget restraints.“My hope is that by reaching out to Calgarians now about what they’re looking for in an event centre, that this could help make some of that wrong situation right,” he added. “Given that taxpayer dollars are going into this, we need to make sure that all Calgarians can benefit from this event centre, not just those who can afford to pay the money to go to the games.”RELATED: Economist sees new Calgary arena as good investmentMayor Naheed Nenshi disagrees about a lack of public engagement before the deal was approved, but echoes Farkas’ hopes this will make citizens more connected to the project.“What we really need to do now that the deal has been approved, is really talk to people about what it is that you’d like to see there. How would you like it to interface with the neighbourhood, what are the services you’d really love to see, and this is a terrific opportunity for us to have that conversation,” Nenshi said.One of the most important pieces in the whole project is how to develop the area around the arena, as the city hopes it can become a community gathering place to keep the action going outside of hockey games or big concerts.Farkas said he would like to see a community pool added to the building, to make up for recent pool closures in the Beltline and Inglewood.This is also an important piece for the CMLC.“One of the pieces that’s missing with a facility like the Saddledome today is when there’s nothing happening there, there’s nothing happening there, and there’s nothing happening around it. I think we have a different opportunity with this facility to have a different environment in the district and I think we’ll hear that in engagement,” said LePan.Along with facility design and the programming in the area, people will also be asked to provide thoughts on activating street-facing businesses and how to grapple with operating this in a winter city.After this process is completed, the CMLC will report back to council.Construction on the new arena is planned to start in 2021.WATCH: Calgary will be getting a new arena

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