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If the NHL strikes a deal with its players, Manitoba Entertainment Complex "will quickly unveil" its plan to save the Jets and build a new arena, according to a report on this morning's WINNIPEG SUN. MEC Chair John Loewen: "We're hopeful we'll be ready (for a meeting with city council) sometime next week." In the meeting, the MEC is "almost certain to ask the city to donate land it owns north of The Forks for the new arena." Any decision on the arena will have to be made as soon as possible if it is to be ready for '97-98. Estimates for the construction are at two years, if it is started by the summer. Jets President Barry Shenkarow said Monday that construction can wait until this fall, but Loewen believes "that's pushing it to the limit" (Glenn Cheater, WINNIPEG SUN, 1/11). In related news, Scott Taylor of the WINNIPEG FREE PRESS writes that taxpayers "shouldn't be held responsible for the existence of such teams as the Jets, Oilers, and Flames," that gambling profits should be used to help "maintain their existence." Once "adamantly" opposed to the idea, Winnipeg Mayor Susan Thompson "has changed her tune on gaming revenues," saying that funds from gambling should be used to help build a new entertainment complex. Thompson: "If the new collective bargaining agreement with the NHL doesn't make it possible for the Jets to stay here, it doesn't mean we still don't need the new entertainment complex." Aside from a place for the Jets to play, the arena could be used for events in the 1999 Pan-Am Games (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 1/10).
"Last-ditch efforts to salvage the crippled Target Center buyout are focused" on a plan whereby the Minneapolis Community Development Agency (MCDA), the city's economic development arm, would buy the arena. The plan was submitted to prospective Timberwolves buyer Glen Taylor on Tuesday. Under this plan, Taylor would increase his purchase price of the team, thereby lowering the purchase price of the arena. Sources say that although Taylor's upfront costs for the team would be higher, he and Ogden Corp., the group that manages the arena, would benefit from reduced arena operating costs from lower debt service and reduced property taxes. If Taylor accepts the deal, the Minneapolis City Council could vote on the buyout as early as Friday (Kevin Diaz, Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/11). In August, Taylor agreed to buy the team for $88.5M, while the arena buyout would have cost the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission $54M. The public buyout of the Target Center failed due to a new statute in the federal tax code.