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Bettman: Flames face 'consequences' without new arena

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Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

The Calgary Flames aren’t leaving town if they don’t get a new arena. At least not in the short term.

On Tuesday, Flames president and CEO Ken King announced the team is no longer pursuing plans to construct a new facility in Calgary, classifying recent meetings with city officials as “spectacularly unproductive.”

The update comes after King revealed the two sides have not sat at the negotiation tables in more than a month, despite a willingness from Flames’ ownership to move away from its CalgaryNEXT proposal in favor of the city’s preferred Victoria Park site.

“We would not say we’re not interested (in Victoria Park),” King told reporters. “In fact, we’re interested enough to put up a very, very substantial participation, but apparently it’s not enough.

“It’s unfortunate, because I really thought we had something that would work, and it would seem pretty clear that it’s not. It doesn’t look like we’re going to get there, and I think it’s time that we stopped pretending and were a little more direct and a little more honest with our fans and with our city about that fact.”

There is frustration on the part of Flames’ ownership, particularly when their Alberta counterpart, the Edmonton Oilers, unveiled the new Rogers Place last season, a project that was largely publicly funded and came to fruition after Oilers owner Daryl Katz floated the possibility of the team leaving for Seattle if it was unable to land a new arena in Edmonton.

“This is the business side. It’s the boring side (but) it’s important. You’ve got to be viable, you’ve got to be able to secure your long-term future,” King added. “But I think our fans want to know if our two new goalies can stop pucks, if we can compete, and if we can beat the guys up north. Apparently we can’t beat them on the building front but maybe we can beat them on the ice.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, on hand for the announcement, echoed King’s sentiments on the city’s inability to see value in a new arena.

“One of the dynamics here that strikes me as a different, particularly say from Edmonton, I don’t get a sense from the city that there is a commitment to or a belief in the importance of having the right infrastructure and having a major league sports team,” Bettman told reporters. “I don’t see the same level of city commitment here that I’ve seen in other places.

“This team needs a new arena. This city needs a new arena. But there is no realistic prospect of it coming forward based on everything that has and has not transpired. The city was made aware last February as to what it would take to do an arena; it was their best shot at getting it done. The city is nowhere close to embracing that, so there was no point in continuing.”

While negotiations appear to be at a standstill, with King stating he does not see an immediate arena resolution on the horizon, he added that the possibility of relocating from Calgary is not something ownership has discussed.

That was most evident in June, when King shot down relocation talk after Flames’ president of hockey operations Brian Burke mentioned Quebec City as a potential landing spot for the franchise.

“In the short term, nobody should doubt the Flames’ or their ownership’s commitment to the community,” Bettman added. “But at some point, I envision without a new building there will be consequences that everybody is going to have to deal with.”

The Flames came to Calgary in 1980 after spending the franchise’s first eight seasons in Atlanta. In 1983, the team then made its home at the Scotiabank Saddledome, currently the NHL’s oldest arena, save for the since-renovated Madison Square Garden.

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