Edmonton City Council Approves New Downtown Oilers Arena
The Edmonton City Council yesterday "gave the go-ahead" to a $450M (all figures Canadian) arena for the Oilers "intended to transform downtown," according to a front-page piece by Gordon Kent of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. While the Oilers “won’t be able to leave their current home in Rexall Place in the fall of 2014 as originally planned, city officials said they could be ready to move the following season.” Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel said that there should be “announcements about new businesses in the entertainment district around the arena shortly after council signs off on a final contract in a few weeks.” The plan, “which passed 10-3, uses money from the city, Oilers owner Daryl Katz, a ticket tax and a hoped-for contribution from the province.” If bids from construction companies are higher that $450M, “either side can walk away from the deal.” Katz had “committed to investing an additional $100 million into surrounding projects when the market warrants, but in a last-minute change on which he was consulted will now put in $30 million before arena construction starts.” Once the agreement was approved, “councillors immediately started the ball rolling toward construction by approving $30 million for design work.” This should mean “an interim schematic diagram will be ready next spring and a final design, which the city and Katz must both accept, going to council in November 2012 so the project can be sent out to tender to set a price” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 10/27). In Edmonton, Michelle Thompson reported the arena “will be funded through a $125 million city contribution and $125 million ticket tax, topped off by $5.5 million a year for 35 years from the Katz group.” It is “still not clear where the remaining $100 million will come from, though the city is still counting on the province to chip in the difference” (EDMONTONSUN.com, 10/26).
COMMUNITY PRIDE: An EDMONTON JOURNAL editorial states, “This far-sighted bit of risk-taking by Mayor Stephen Mandel’s council and Oilers owner Daryl Katz has great promise of playing a key role in transforming Edmonton’s downtown, securing this energy capital’s long-term future.” A significant number of residents “feel the city is contributing too much and Katz too little to the project.” The belief is that “all Edmontonians will benefit -- from the economic spinoffs boosting the tax base, from the proliferation of non-hockey entertainment options that they will use, from the greater future attractiveness of Edmonton as a place to live and from the fact that NHL hockey will now be guaranteed to remain a key part of the community pride for at least the next 35 years” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 10/27). In Edmonton, Staples, Simons & MacKinnon write, “Some days, we get it right in Edmonton. We set aside our civic anxieties, our perpetual differences.” After careful consideration and heated debate, “we find consensus, then push forward with gusto.” On Wednesday, “that’s what Edmonton city council did.” This is “a good deal, far better than the existing Oilers deal at Rexall, and certainly right in line with what we see in terms of public/private funding models for new arenas in other NHL cities” (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 10/27).