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Volume 24 No. 181


The Edmonton City Council yesterday approved the Oilers' proposed downtown arena by a 10-3 vote "following a last minute agreement" with team Owner Daryl Katz, according to a front-page piece by Gordon Kent of the EDMONTON JOURNAL. Construction on the new arena is scheduled to start "as early as August and open in 2016, not 2014 as originally scheduled." Negotiations on the project "broke off last fall after Katz, arguing the economics weren’t as good as they appeared when an agreement framework was approved in October 2011, asked for changes" that included a $6M (all figures Canadian) annual subsidy. Edmonton City Manager Simon Farbrother said that a summary agreement he and Katz signed Tuesday is "95 per cent similar to the 2011 framework." Kent notes the "major difference is cost." The maximum price of the 18,559-seat facility now is $480M, up from $450M, and the two sides "have agreed to split the difference." The city also is going ahead with a $21M, 1,000-seat community rink attached to the arena, "an addition originally slated to proceed only if the provincial and federal governments provided two-thirds of the budget." With no direct subsidies in the 35-year lease, Katz Group Exec VP & General Counsel John Karvellas said that the company "doesn't intend to come back for more money in the future." Kent reports the Katz Group and partner WAM Development Group are planning $2B worth of "development on land around the new facility"(EDMONTON JOURNAL, 1/24).

FUND RAISING: In Edmonton, Angelique Rodrigues reports the new design will cost $601M "once all surrounding infrastructure is tallied up." The city of Edmonton "in total" will provide $219M in funding for the project, including the $140M "for the arena itself." Katz will "ante up $143 million -- and cover all costs exceeding $50 million for the Winter Garden -- and a proposed ticket surcharge will net in $125 million" (EDMONTON SUN, 1/24). Also in Edmonton, Paula Simons reports the city will "assume the costs and responsibility for all the major building rehabilitation and structural repairs, things like the pipes, the air conditioning, the escalators." Those costs will be funded with a $1.5M annual ticket tax, "which could be hiked as needed." The money will be "placed in a reserve fund -- but any surplus will go directly back to the Katz Group." The updated deal also gives the Edmonton Arena Corp. a "guaranteed tax agreement." The Katz Group under the old framework had to "pay all property taxes on the new arena." The EAC now will "pay $250,000 a year in city property taxes -- for the next 35 years" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 1/24). The GLOBE & MAIL's Josh Wingrove writes questions regarding the deal "remain, including a missing $100-million from the province and no plan about how to cover cost overruns, but arena advocates celebrated the deal as long overdue." The Oilers "pledged not to reopen the contract over its term" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/24).

CHEERS, BUT A FEW JEERS: In Edmonton, Terry Jones writes yesterday "should have been a great day." But in "exasperated Edmonton, after half a decade of dragging the deal through the mud, with an owner holding Edmonton’s feet to the fire while running farce fakes to move the team to Hamilton, Quebec City and most recently Seattle, there was no dancing on the snow-covered streets." Until there is a "hole in the ground in August, nobody is likely going to totally, 100% completely, believe they'll be watching the Oilers play in the place in 2016." Katz "wanted his legacy to be the arena and downtown entertainment district," But it "might be more" Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel's today. Having had "enough," Mandel "called the bluff and said no to the billionaire owner." The "second star" of the deal is NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, whose image is "mud in 29 other NHL cities after the lockout, but ... has once again done right by Edmonton" (EDMONTON SUN, 1/24). In Vancouver, Cam Cole writes under the header, "Bettman Is Royalty, But Only In Edmonton" (VANCOUVER SUN, 1/24). In Edmonton, David Staples in a front-page piece writes under the header, "We Owe Thanks To Mandel, Katz And Bettman For This Arena Deal." Mandel and Katz have "taken a huge amount of abuse over a long period of time in regards to this arena deal, but now they have their win." Mandel "repeatedly pushed for the arena when few others would stand up" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 1/24). The JOURNAL's Kent notes several Oilers players watched yesterday's discussions "from the front row of the council chamber" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 1/24).

In Chicago, John Byrne reported city Mayor Rahm Emanuel yesterday “wouldn't discuss how much say" opponents of Cubs Owner the Ricketts family’s plan to pay for renovations to Wrigley Field “should have in shaping it.” Emanuel said, "We're at the point there will be no taxpayer subsidies for a private entity. ... I'm not going to negotiate in public, but there's a lot of effort being made to finish this up" (, 1/23). ESPN’s Pablo Torre said of the proposed renovations, “The only reason I even get up off the couch to go to sporting events ... is to actually bask in the history and the stench and the old atmosphere of these stadiums. I don’t want Wrigley to change at all.” The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan said, “They don’t have to change it. Just do what you did at Fenway where they did not disturb the character of the ballpark while improving it to the tune of $100 million worth of renovations over the last ten years. The blueprint is Fenway. It can be done” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/23).

: In Ft. Lauderdale, Craig Davis reports the Dolphins yesterday “got the first indication of public support for funding renovations of Sun Life Stadium" with a resolution passed by the Miami-Dade County Commission. The resolution, which “passed 7-4 endorsing a 1-cent increase in the county bed tax and a $3 million-a-year rebate from taxes on sales of goods and services sold at Sun Life Stadium, is non-binding” (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/24).

INDIANA JONES: In Indianapolis, Dana Hunsinger Benbow notes Bankers Life Fieldhouse updated its menu to include “nearly 40 new items,” with suites offering “even more options.” There are “nine gluten-free items, 12 new kinds of beer and gourmet cheese platters from local farms.” But some of the prices “aren't all that gourmet,” as prices are “anywhere from a few bucks to $12.” Exec Chef David Harvie said the goal was to "highlight locally produced, seasonal ingredients and fresh, bold flavors" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 1/24).

UN-SPORTSMANLIKE? A K.C. STAR editorial states of a '10 deal between the city and Wyandotte County, and MLS Sporting KC and Cerner Corp., "It's discouraging that Sporting KC and Cerner have so far failed to keep their pledge to privately finance construction of a $35 million youth soccer complex in Wyandotte County Park along with three recreational soccer fields." The fields were “supposed to be ready for play by the end of 2012; no work has even started.” This is a “breach of faith with the county’s residents” (K.C. STAR, 1/24).