SBD/July 17, 2012/Facilities

Oilers Arena Project Running Over Budget, Alberta Hesitant To Chip In Extra Funds

Current target for completion of Oilers' new downtown arena is fall of '15
The downtown arena project is Edmonton's "one-off chance to construct a sports palace worthy of the city's renowned history of hockey excellence, and to do so in the context of a large, comprehensive downtown revitalization plan led by the city itself," according to John MacKinnon of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. It has "taken a while, but the arena designs made public so far, not to mention the video tour on offer on YouTube, seem to be winning Edmontonians over to the notion there is something powerfully appealing about building a hockey temple." The "grandeur of the design is the point here, central to ensuring that all the inter-connected parts of the project fit together to help make it a destination, a centerpiece of civic pride." As opposed to the "desolate expanse the site has represented for so many decades." Oilers Owner Daryl Katz said that the current target "is for completion by the fall of 2015, a costly one-year gap." Katz: "We are actually pretty close to being on budget, if you consider things like an extra year of construction cost inflation and underground parking, which weren't part of the equation when the number (C$450 million) was set" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 7/17).

MONEY TALKS: The NATIONAL POST's Jen Gerson notes the latest estimates to be presented to city council today suggest the project "could actually run to C$485-million -- unless changes are made to keep costs down." The project has "garnered almost unceasing scrutiny since it was proposed; the municipal government has agreed to a proposal that would see it foot much of the bill for the arena, although it remains short C$100-million in financing, with the province so far unwilling to chip in" (NATIONAL POST, 7/17).

IF YOU BUILD IT...: The GLOBE & MAIL's David Ebner noted Katz and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel "believe the arena is an essential one-of-a-kind spark for the city's downtown, a draw for people, real-estate development and a font of new property taxes." They "want to replicate the downtown arena districts in places such as Los Angeles." Critics of the Edmonton arena deal "look at Katz's on-paper wealth and wonder why he can't just build an arena himself." Katz said that Edmontonians "underappreciate the money he has spent, and has committed." Katz: "I'm a builder. I can't say I really would have been interested in buying the team at all, but for the opportunity, through the team, to do such a transformational thing for the city, and also sustain the team, and sustain the NHL, and build a new arena, and revitalize the city. It was the whole kind of thing that was really attractive to me. I didn't have a burning desire to own a hockey team" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/14).
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