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D & Y
99,804 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Northlands needs to offer funding ideas to deserve place in future arena

Expertise in running facilities won't be enough to stay in game

By David Staples,

Northlands may well still be a master of hosting entertainment and sporting events, but when it comes to the arena business, it no longer has much game.

That became clear during Northlands' presentation to city council on Friday on the proposed $400-million downtown arena project, especially when Coun. Amarjeet Sohi quizzed Northlands president Richard Anderson on the key issue of the arena deal, the key issue of any business deal for that matter: Who is going to put up the money?

Northlands and the Katz Group both want to operate the new arena and take profits from concerts there. City council is trying to figure out who has the better claim.

"Mr. Andersen," said Coun. Sohi, "you said are in favour of an arena downtown, but you want to be a partner. So, if opportunity is given to you, what are you going to bring to the table?"

"What we bring to the table ... is our operational expertise," said Andersen, a sharp and charming executive with oodles of pro sports experience in the United States. "This is our business. We built it. We're the ones generating the $6.2-million bottom line, so that's what we would bring to the table."

That answer wasn't what Sohi was looking for. He was hoping Northlands had conjured up some funding magic. "We're looking at about $300 million or so unfunded part of the new downtown arena," Sohi followed up with Andersen. "I'm more interested in: Can you use your expertise, your knowledge, your relationships, your links, to have additional dollars available for the construction of the arena?"

"It's not something we've consciously thought through," Andersen replied.

"But we'd love to be at the table in those conversations, being able to try to get to some ultimate outcome where the arena happens."

Let me see if I have this right: Northlands has known that a downtown arena project has been in the works for at least two years, yet financing of the arena isn't something that Northlands has consciously thought through? Not exactly Andersen's best moment of the presentation, I must say.

In the old heady days of the Northlands organization, the lions of that organization such as Al Anderson or Harry Hole would have found a way to get some form of financing and they would have done so in timely fashion. But Northlands no longer has that kind of pull, it would seem. Perhaps with the rapid demise of the horse-racing business, Northlands has lost its biggest calling card, its place where the city's and province's elite met to socialize and make deals.

Contrast Northlands' approach on Friday with the appearance of Oilers owner Daryl Katz before council in July. When Katz came forward, the arena project was under heavy and possibly fatal fire. Katz had bungled things, saying he was putting in $100 million to the arena, then switching over to say he was actually going to put the money into the arena district. It appeared confusing, if not sneaky.

Before council, however, Katz made good by saying he now planned to put $100 million into the arena and another $100 million into the arena district. Suddenly, a lot of frowns around the city turned into smiles about the downtown arena project.

But I'm still frowning about Northlands today, and arena funding wasn't the only contentious point.

There was also the issue of what would happen to Rexall Place if the Katz Group and city council decide to proceed with a downtown arena without Northlands as the operator. Northlands and others have studied the local market and found that Edmonton simply isn't big enough to support two 17,000-seat arenas.

But if Northlands is frozen out of running the new arena, Andersen said his group is prepared to push back and keep running Rexall Place. "If we were forced into that position, then we would defend our business." In other words, Northlands is gearing up, on some level, for a battle where there are two city-owned but competing arenas, one operated by Northlands, one by the Katz Group.

This stance may well be in the interest of Northlands, but it's hard to imagine it is in the best interests of the city. It was no surprise then when Mayor Stephen Mandel made it clear after the Northlands presentation that this city will not have two arenas operating at the same time, no matter what Andersen is suggesting.

After all, the city owns Rexall Place; Northlands is the lease holder, until 2034.

What Mandel and other councillors are open to is working with Northlands to figure out how it can remain solvent, whether it is part of any new arena deal or not. As Mandel put it to Andersen, "It isn't about whether you have to run it or not run it, it's about making sure that Northlands is a viable operation in this city. Is that what you want to make sure happens?" Andersen agreed that it was: "At the end of the day, that's the key piece for all of this," he said.

In the end, there is no Divine Right of Northlands to be at the centre of all arena business in Edmonton. If it can't find a way to get skin in the game, it shouldn't be a major downtown arena player. But even if Northlands isn't what it used to be in the arena game, it's still a key player in Edmonton's convention and tourism business, it must remain so, and city council has a role to play in that.

[email protected]

D & Y
99,804 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Edmonton planners like Katz Group’s zoning proposal

Modified application imagines ‘grand avenue’ into downtown

By Gordon Kent, December 30, 2010 6:49 PM

EDMONTON — City planners threw their support Thursday behind the Katz Group’s proposal to rezone a section of downtown Edmonton land for a new arena and entertainment complex.

“A project like this, if (it’s) properly done, can be transformational and very positive for a downtown at the end of the day,” planning and development general manager Gary Klassen said.

“The recommendation is strictly for the zoning of the lands. This is not about the approval of a downtown arena at this time.”

The company has modified its application since a zoning hearing set for last June was postponed, taking into account such factors as the recently approved downtown plan and concerns of the Edmonton Design Committee, he said.

The current proposal could see less parking required for the project, part of the city’s overall desire to demand fewer stalls in downtown developments, and makes clear that the project must welcome pedestrians, a report says.

It envisions wide sidewalks flanked by shade trees on boulevards up to 4.5-metres wide along 104th Avenue, which the downtown plan sees as a “grand avenue” entering the city core.

The design committee, an outside advisory group, didn’t support the original proposal last May, but accepted the latest version after concerns about sustainability, public art, architecture and other issues were addressed.

The suggested bylaw amendments, which will be discussed by city council at a January 18 public hearing, accommodate an arena, offices, homes, retail and other uses, the report says.

“The area will be characterized by an accessible, pedestrian-friendly street environment, innovative signage, iconic architecture and exceptional urban design.”

As often happens with this type of application, the zoning would permit dozens of different activities such as hotels, bars, apartments, casinos, flea markets and boarding houses, although there’s no indication which will be built.

Staff also suggest selling nearly half a hectare of city land in the area set aside for a park, using the profits for another downtown park, and closing a lane that runs through the five-hectare site.

The application covers the Baccarat Casino north of 104th Avenue, the adjoining parking lot and nearby vacant property west to 104th Street.

Development is also slated for a parking lot on the south side of 104th Avenue, but it can go ahead with the current zoning.

The proposal doesn’t give details about how the project will look or which features, including the “winter garden” pedestrian crossing over 104th Avenue, will be constructed.

This information will be included in designs that will submitted if the rezoning passes.

City council, which is expected to be the arena owner, would still have to accept the design, with input from the design committee, Klassen said.

Coun. Kim Krushell is happy that sign and landscape plans, pedestrian studies, and other work, will be needed as the development progresses.

“It does require planning and high-quality architecture, although one of the things I will be asking is how will the design committee fit into this,” she said.

“When you have something this big, it’s hard to be specific when you don’t know who your potential tenants are.”

Relaxing the number of parking stalls makes sense because council recently approved a pilot program allowing fewer or even no spaces for vehicles in some future downtown developments to make more use of public transit, she said.

The report said parking might be reduced if a study indicates this is feasible, based on such factors as the character and location of the development, and the availability of transit and existing parking.

The new zoning proposal will be considered the day after council looks at ways to pay for arena construction and how the facility would be operated.

The Katz Group has pledged to contribute $100 million to the estimated $450-million to $500-million cost of erecting a replacement for Rexall Place.

A ticket tax and dedicated property taxes from other new nearby construction are other potential funding sources.

A company official said by e-mail they welcome the report and look forward to meetings with city administration to work through the next steps in the process.

The Oilers hope to start playing in the new facility in the 2014 NHL season.

Mayor Stephen Mandel has said he expects councillors to make a final decision on the project by the end of April.

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D & Y
99,804 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Harsh reality is we lose the Oilers if the arena is not built

By David Staples, Edmonton Journal January 19, 2011

Those who are trying to sell Edmontonians on a downtown arena district are using a carrot and a stick.

The stick is the threat, implicit or otherwise, that if a new arena isn't built on terms amenable to the Katz Group, it will move the Oilers out of Edmonton as soon as 2014.

This threat has Coun. Don Iveson complaining about pressure tactics from arena supporters, whom Iveson says are asking him, "How could you have on your conscience being the councillor, or part of the council, that lost the hockey team?"

At a council hearing on the arena project this week, Iveson said of such pressure: "So in the popular discussion about this, that is what this has become about.

"And it's precisely that emotional blackmail that leads to the kind of stranglehold that we are in at this point in this negotiation. My point is that it's a really unfavourable position to be in when you try to negotiate under those kinds of circumstances."

The carrot is actually two carrots: the notion that if the arena district goes ahead, the Oilers will be legally bound to stay in Edmonton for the next 30 years; and the notion that an arena district will be a high-powered engine to drive the revitalization of Edmonton's downtown.

On Tuesday, at the arena district's rezoning hearing, numerous business leaders put out the message that such a revitalization isn't a fantasy, that it has worked like a charm in other downtowns in other cities and that it can happen in Edmonton.

Local realtor Terry Paranych said he's hoping to build two condo towers, one 40 storeys, one 50 storeys, near the arena district, but the future of the project hinges on the arena getting built.

"It's an absolute must this district goes ahead," Paranych told me outside the hearing.

"If it weren't to go forward, we don't know if we'd go ahead."

Simon O'Byrne of Stantec, which is working for the Katz Group on the project, told council: "We want to make (our downtown) successful and alive like it was for Grey Cup weekend. We want the same kind of vibrancy to happen throughout the year. This project will help do that and double or triple the level of activity everywhere in the downtown."

Developer Randy Ferguson of Procura told council the biggest issue that people have with the downtown is the lack of things to do. The arena district will address that deficiency, he said: "As an expert in multifamily housing and as an expert in downtown, I am here to tell you unequivocally it will attract residents downtown."

City council needs to get hopping on the project, Ferguson said: "Keep that momentum going. Do not allow it to slacken. Do not get involved in paralysis through analysis."

Carman McNary, president of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, sounded the same note, saying there's an opportunity for the project's major players to save money if the project can proceed before the oilsands heats up again.

Richard Wong, general manager of the Sutton Place Hotel, said even though a new competing hotel or two is planned for the arena district, he is favour of the project, as it will help attract conventions, trade shows and special events to the city, bringing business for all hotels. "We have a unique opportunity to create something great downtown ... I ask you: if not now, then when? If not us, then who? The timing is right. And it is now."

As for Iveson's claim of "emotional blackmail" being employed by project backers, I can't agree. Yes, the Katz Group has made it clear the Oilers won't play at Rexall Place after 2014. In other words, if a new arena isn't built in Edmonton, the Katz Group is indicating the Oilers won't be in Edmonton after 2014.

That's tough talk. That's an implicit threat.

We might not like to hear such a statement, we might hate the notion of the Oilers leaving Edmonton, and a vocal minority certainly detests the idea of any public money going to a new downtown arena. Nonetheless, the Katz Group's position is rational and reasonable.

The possibility of the Oilers leaving Edmonton one day is no dark fantasy. It's a business reality, and it becomes far more of a threat and a possibility if we pretend that Rexall Place is a proper arena for an NHL team for the next 30 years.

The undeniable fact is Edmonton came close to losing its team in 1998. Given our boom/bust economy, Edmonton could certainly be in that position again.

Two NHL teams moved out of Canada in the 1990s. A huge part of the equation in Quebec City losing the Nordiques in 1995 and Winnipeg losing the Jets in 1996 was the fact both cities had sub-standard, noncompetitive arenas, old buildings full of great hockey memories, but buildings that didn't come close to competing with the much larger, much more spacious and much better-designed wave of NHL arenas then being built in numerous American and Canadian cities.

Edmonton was only spared the same fate because it had a newly renovated building and a location agreement that forced then Oilers owner Peter Pocklington to sell the team at a discount to local buyers. That stopped him from dealing the team to a Houston billionaire in 1998.

Edmonton has seen a low Canadian dollar and a poor local economy in the past. If this city hasn't done something about its subpar arena situation, and if economic hard times come back, the Oilers aren't likely to stick around.

That's not blackmail; that's the obvious lesson of recent history.

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The Tropics of Canada
5,067 Posts
What ever happen to the Winetr Garden idea?

The city would pay for a new Oilers arena itself, while the Katz Group would invest $100 million in the accompanying sports and entertainment complex, according to details of the $1.4-billion project released Tuesday.

The city could borrow money to build the arena, which it would own, then pay off the loan with a "community revitalization levy" using property taxes generated by the rest of the development, said Bob Black, the company's vice-president of sports and entertainment.

He expects the federal and provincial governments to help with infrastructure, including a connection to the LRT station planned nearby.

The Katz plan includes shops, restaurants and two office towers linked by a 4,000-square-metre pedestrian bridge to a $400-million arena across 104th Avenue.

The enclosed "Winter Garden" walkover, featuring stores and standing eight metres above the road, will tie the district together, Black said.

The arena area will include a community rink doubling as Edmonton Oilers practice ice, two hotels, a new casino and new student residences, he told the Building Owners and Managers Association.

"This is Edmonton's opportunity and it needs to be Edmonton's vision. This really is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. More than anything, it's about the future."

"There is still some work to be done on the model, but the people of Edmonton should feel comfortable that their taxes will not go up to pay for a new arena."

Oilers owner Daryl Katz had pledged to put $100 million into the rink, but Black said he instead wants to invest at least that much into the rest of the project, which would be built with partners.

"In order for citizens of the city to have a reasonable assurance that the community revitalization levy debt will be retired by the city, then you have to have that collateral development."

Katz Group, which includes Rexall Drug Stores, would be one of the tenants in the office towers, Black said.

Mayor Stephen Mandel, who didn't attend the speech, said later he hadn't heard suggestions Katz would contribute to the surrounding buildings.

"We have always talked about the importance of a downtown arena. Mr. Katz has always talked about putting $100 million into the arena," Mandel told reporters.

"You're giving me contradictory information ... we will have to get more details about what he said."

The scheme will require extensive public consultations and evaluation once a formal proposal comes forward, Mandel said.

Coun. Kim Krushell said council must decide whether the city can borrow money for an arena without affecting plans for new LRT lines and other work.

While she isn't opposed to using a community revitalization levy to fund the project, she needs to be sure the taxes will cover the costs.

"How soon can the rest of it be built that generates the tax revenue that would pay back the $400 million?" she asked.

"People are concerned about traffic and who pays for it. If those can be addressed, then there probably is support out there."

The project will go on 6.4 hectares of land at the site of the Baccarat Casino and across 104th Avenue on the parking lot east of the Greyhound bus station.

It will feature 3,000 underground parking stalls. A transportation planning firm estimates there's plenty of road capacity to handle the extra traffic, especially because most events happen in off-peak hours, Black said.

He hopes to start construction by January 2012 and have the arena ready for play by the beginning of the 2014-15 NHL season.
The Oilers' current lease at Rexall Place, operated by Northlands, expires in 2014.

The management and operation of the new arena is still subject to discussion, Black said.

"Our door is open to Northlands, but really, this is a key opportunity for Edmonton to do something that is transformative."

Northlands chair Andy Huntley said his group is consulting with stakeholders, mainly the city, after the latest offer from the Katz Group.

But with the company talking about an arena entirely government owned and financed, it makes sense to have his non-profit organization involved as a "steward of the public interest," Huntley said.

"We can manage the competing interests you can bring to the city," he said, citing the Roar of the Rings Olympic curling trials as one successful recent show at Rexall Place.

"Not all of the events like that would be of interest to a private operator. They might not have the same profit elements. We manage in the interest of the whole community."

The Tropics of Canada
5,067 Posts
If a new arena isn't built on terms amenable to the Katz Group, it will move the Oilers out of Edmonton as soon as 2014.

I just don’t see how this is to be true. Yes, as someone who lived for years in Edmonton, I agree that a new Arena is needed. Will it make the Oilers move if they don’t get one, I doubt it. I don’t think this type of talk is required to move people into supporting a new arena, anyone who lives in Edmonton knows that one is necessary anyways. Why add so much drama to an already difficult situation?

The question that I ask, for Edmontonians, where is the ideal location in your opinion? Is the West End a better fit then City Centre? What about the River Valley?

D & Y
99,804 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Downtown ‘university village’ concept attracts U of A

Katz Group wants student housing in downtown arena district

By Sheila Pratt, January 24, 2011 9:01 PM

EDMONTON — The University of Alberta is keen on the Katz Group idea of a “university village” in the downtown core that could include NAIT, MacEwan University and other institutions, says provost Carl Amrhein.

While talks are still preliminary on possible housing development near the proposed arena, Amrhein said the university would be interested in the idea, since it is short of all kinds of housing for students, faculty and international visitors.

Bob Black, vice-president of the Katz Group, confirmed there have been talks with the major post-secondary institutions. “We remain in the exploration stage.”

Student housing “has always been part of Daryl Katz’s vision for the downtown,” said Black.

The proposed new arena and entertainment district presents a great opportunity to have students live near the LRT and cultural amenities and entertainment facilities, not to mention plentiful part-time jobs, he said.

Other cities, such as Chicago, established downtown student housing that is highly successful and adds to downtown life, he said.

“It’s a good urban strategy,” said Black. “There’s recognition it can be strategically important for those institutions as well as the city as a whole.”

Amrhein said the proximity of the proposed arena development to U of A’s Enterprise Square is an important factor. But the city’s commitment to extend the LRT to NAIT was the clincher, he said.

“The city said it was serious about LRT extension (to NAIT). That creates for us the winning conditions.”

Tying all the post-secondary campuses together with LRT would help give Edmonton an “international calling card as a learning city,” Amrhein said.

“If the Katz Group can create aggregate activity for post-secondary institutions, it would be spectacular. A university village, but not just us alone.”

Edmonton’s downtown doesn’t have a lot of head offices, he said. But the city could create a denser, urban core with housing to complement post-secondary institutions.

“It is encouraging the arena is taking a step, it is terrific for the city.”

The university would be looking for a mix of housing types, not just a student resident tower like Lister Hall on north campus, he said.

Buildings with condos and apartments could also include seminar space, a daycare and possibly even a kindergarten-to-Grade 6 school, he said.

Black said there has been no discussion of funding, and it’s too early to discuss whether the Katz Group would contribute or whether the village would be built with public money.

Amrhein said he doesn’t see it as a disadvantage to locate new accommodation away from main campus.

“Not everyone wants to live on campus,” he said.

When the housing market was booming in 2008, recruitment was hindered by the high cost of housing and the fact the university had few options for faculty and grad student housing, said Amrhein.

The only graduate student housing, Michener Park, is badly in need to renovation, he said.

The university plans to build residences on south campus, but development there stalled this fall when the city lost the bid to host Expo 2017.

[email protected]

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D & Y
99,804 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Northlands wants to keep operating Rexall Place

'We built this business (and) we intend to maintain it'


Photo showing the proposed site for the Katz Group's downtown Edmonton area district.

EDMONTON - Northlands isn’t bluffing with plans to continue operating Rexall Place even if the Oilers move to a new downtown arena, president Richard Andersen says.

“I know I haven’t made a career out of playing bluffs and Northlands hasn’t,” he said Thursday.

“When we say something, we mean it.”

The city gives the non-profit society $2.4 million a year to help operate Rexall, but that doesn’t cover all the Oilers’ approximately $6-million costs, Andersen said.

Although a report last year indicated the building needs $31 million worth of maintenance by 2023, he said without the Oilers there, this figure would be lower.

The team also receives money in such areas as liquor sales and suites at non-hockey events that could go to Northlands if the club moves, he said.

“I think financially it would be very positive. The reality is, in a purely business perspective … we built this business (and) we intend to maintain it.”

Northlands has a lease at Rexall until 2034. The city couldn’t impose a condition to prevent it from competing for shows with a downtown facility, Andersen said.

Rexall would continue to attract concerts and other events due to the experience of staff, lower costs, and easier truck access, he said.

“We want to be clear, so there’s no confusion. Until there’s some other direction, our full plan is to get on with our business and run Rexall.”

City council directed staff Wednesday night to continue negotiations started in January on a deal with Oilers owner Daryl Katz to build a new city-owned arena.

However, the 17 conditions laid out don’t include a requirement that Katz stick to his pledge to put at least $100 million into surrounding downtown development.

When Katz met city council last July 21, he promised to contribute $100 million to the facility, but also agreed to spend roughly the same amount to help kick-start construction of other buildings in the area.

“I still fully intend to invest at least another $100 million in leading the development of the arena district,” he said at the time.

Coun. Bryan Anderson said that comment followed a “blundering PR move” in which Katz changed his original vow to spend on the arena into a commitment only to put money into the area.

He thinks Katz will probably deliver on both $100-million pledges.

“I’m not concerned, but I would have felt better if plans for investment of the $100 million was in the motion,” he said.

“But I do think that it’s going to happen, and I feel comfortable having (city manager Simon) Farbrother commit to me … that that topic will come up in negotiations.”

Council must also ratify any agreement that’s reached, he said.

The Katz cash was seen as one way to ensure enough development happens around an arena to generate the extra property taxes to help pay for the project through a community revitalization levy or CRL.

However, under the current motion, the money going to the arena from the levy has been scaled back and replaced by other sources of civic funding.

Anderson can foresee Katz still investing in an adjacent 5,000-seat community rink, possibly for Oilers practices, or in space for a proposed hockey academy.

He also expects to see hotels and other structures built.

Mayor Stephen Mandel has told councillors Katz might still invest the money he discussed.

“I just think it’s being a bit presumptuous of us to say ‘you put $100 million into the CRL as part of building an arena,’ ” Mandel said.

“I just think if there’s good business reason to do it, that’s what he will do.”

The negotiating framework doesn’t spell out which side covers cost over-runs, but Coun. Kerry Diotte said the proposed maximum $450-million price tag for the structure should ensure this problem doesn’t happen.

“If you have a fixed price, that’s it. It’s like hiring a contractor, saying you will build a house for $450,000, sign on the bottom line. That’s the deal we’re trying to work out.”

Failing to achieve an assured price in the final agreement would be a deal breaker for him, Diotte said.

“I have heard loud and clear from people. They fear it could be double. You have to negotiate hard, and that’s a key one.”

City officials estimate the final cost of the project will be about $500 million when the price of linking the arena to the LRT, buying land and servicing the site is factored in.

There’s still a big gap between that total and the $350 million expected from Katz, a ticket tax and city sources, which include redirecting money from Rexall Place and projected growth in downtown parking revenue.

More activity downtown is expected to mean more drivers putting loonies into parking meters.

The city also hopes the increased traffic will allow it to save about $2 million a year now spent on a money-losing lease in the City Centre mall parkade.

Mandel plans to ask the province and the federal government for help making up the remaining funding shortfall.

[email protected]

WP-Professional Troll
651 Posts
Keep dreaming. A city of 1.1 million people with two 17,000 or so arena venues would have those venues only compete against eachother for events, each making the other less profitable in the long run. The costs between the two would eat away at the profits each would be making.

The only way I see this working is if both venues agree to host only certain events, allowing the each one to focus on hosting specific events that would not directly compete with the other. Although with the way Rexall has behaved in the past, it sure sounds like they want as big of a piece of the pie as ever so I don't see this happening.

Yes I know, Edmontonians don't like to hear the truth about what the realities of the situation are (in terms of limitations of our city), but we all must deal with it unless, as I wrote earlier, alternate arrangements can be made.

383 Posts
I'll say I'm in favour of the NHL arena as it would help revitalize the downtown area although there are signs of revitalization already there with a number of new developments going on adjacent to the proposed arena site, like the Quest highrise condos, or the two Icons.

Now that they'll be selling those seats I'm wondering how many Edmontonians are going to mortgage their houses to get them :)

Downtown arena sales pitch panned 12

By Pamela Roth ,Edmonton Sun

First posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 3:17:53 MDT PM

A proposal to sell seats like real estate to fund the new downtown arena was met by much skepticism from members of city council and dismissed outright by the Oilers owner.

The Chicago-based Stadium Capital Financing Group spent much of Wednesday morning trying to convince council members that their funding model involving Equity Seat Rights (ESR) is the best solution to meet arena funding shortfalls because it doesn’t involve government funds or taxpayer dollars.

The group suggests selling ownership of 1,500 new seats and 500 premium club seats in the new arena at a cost of $278,000 to $417,000 each, which could raise up to $700 million.

Of that $700 million, $550 million would be dedicated to funding the new proposed arena, $100 million would go to Oilers ownership and $50 million to building the reserve/community benefits fund.

The group also proposes building a new 20,000-seat arena instead of the 17,100 seats currently at Rexall Place.

Group member Lou Weisbach said the proposal basically targets longtime season ticket holders, along with various investors. He explained that as the price of tickets goes up over time, the advantage will go to the buyer.

“I was told there are a lot of people up in arms about the way this building is being financed. We have a suggestion that we think is agreeable to everybody,” said Weisbach, who noted the cost of the seats will not only include 45 Oilers games per season, but also 60 concerts.

“You bring in financial buyers who see this as an economic opportunity to make money over time. I feel that this would work for Edmonton.”

The model is currently being used to construct a new stadium for the University of California at Berkeley.

But members of council questioned whether the proposal could work here.

“What would inspire me to spend my money to do that?” said Mayor Stephen Mandel, who noted there’s a big stretch in price between a season ticket and what is being proposed.

“It really strikes me as a bit overly zealous. Something that seems so good is always maybe too good to be true.”

The Oilers owner, the Katz Group, wants to move the team into a new $450-million arena downtown. Earlier this month, city council approved a framework, setting out the guidelines city administration will use in arena negotiations with the Katz Group.

Katz would contribute $100 million to construction costs, with another $125 million coming from a ticket tax.

A further $125 million would come from property taxes on additional development surrounding the arena and other sources. The funding for the remaining $100 million is still up in the air.

Coun. Ben Henderson said if the ESR proposal were to go anywhere, Stadium Capital would have to speak with Katz first.

Katz group spokesman Bob Black said on Wednesday in a written statement the Stadium Capital proposal would not work in Edmonton and added that the numbers projected are “something of a flight of fancy.”

The idea for an ESR first surfaced last fall when local sports agent Ritch Winter wrote a letter to city council. But the Katz Group said it wasn’t interested in the proposal.

Registered Groovemeister
378 Posts
For so long the focus in Edmonton has been suburban growth and sprawl with the pedestrian unfriendly south Edmonton commons at the forefront of that reality. When it comes to rejuvenating the downtown, Edmonton has been behind the times. I don't think a new stadium would fix all of the problems downtown but at least it will bring more people in and spawn more interest.

D & Y
99,804 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I agree that Edmonton is way behind Vancouver or even Calgary in that regard but as you said its heading to the right direction and the downtown stadium is definitely a major project that will help to achieve that goal.

D & Y
99,804 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Lamphier: Downtown arena project spinning its wheels

Three years on, all we have are fancy renderings, a porous funding model and a lot of self-serving posturing


EDMONTON - I’m sick of the downtown arena debate. Frankly, it bores me to death.

In a province and a city that like to brag about their “can do” spirit, The Project That Isn’t has become a symbol of amateurish, small-town ineptitude.

I’d rather have my molars yanked out than have to follow this muddled mess any longer.

More than three years after the city tabled its downtown arena feasibility report, we’ve got nothing to show for it but some fanciful artists’ renderings and a lot of self-serving posturing.

It’s like being stuck in an elevator, listening to the same vacuous muzak, hour after hour. The arguments, counter-arguments and counter-counter arguments have all been made.

Yet, many key questions remain unanswered, Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz is as reclusive and unforthcoming as ever, and the funding model for the proposed $450 million scheme still has more holes in it than the Eskimos’ roster.

I was reminded of all this on Monday, when Northlands CEO Richard Andersen paid a visit to The Journal’s editorial board.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking Andersen here.

He’s a smart, experienced executive. Before he was recruited by Northlands last year, he ran big-league stadiums for the San Diego Padres, Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Dolphins.

More than anyone else in this city, he knows what it takes to run a pro sports facility. But he simply had nothing new to say. I’d heard it all before. It was the same old, tired script.

That’s because Andersen is on the outside looking in. The city and Katz — who wants a big bag of public money to help pay for his team’s new home — have frozen Northlands’ boss out of their talks from Day 1. A year after arriving in Edmonton, Andersen admits he hasn’t even met Katz.

Faced with no other option, Andersen vowed, for the umpteenth time, that Northlands will continue to operate Rexall Place, the Oilers’ current home, until its current lease with the city expires in 2034.

Although that would cripple the economic viability of a new arena, it’s hard to blame Andersen for adopting that position. He’s merely looking out for Northlands’ interests, just as Katz is trying to squeeze as much dough as he can out of local hockey fans and taxpayers.

As for the city, its recent jabs at Northlands for inadequate financial disclosure are a tad bizarre, to say the least. Northlands files audited financial statements that are posted online for anyone to see, as Andersen points out.

The same can’t be said for the Oilers. Katz, through his minions, has stonewalled requests to open the club’s books to public scrutiny, even while the billionaire drugstore tycoon ramps up the pressure for more public money to help pay for a new arena.

At this late juncture, with the Oilers vowing not to renew their lease at Rexall Place beyond 2014, the downtown arena project badly needs some adult supervision — or better still, an 11th-hour intervention by the Stelmach government to get it back on the rails.

The current process appears to be going nowhere, relations between the key players seems strained if not downright toxic, and public disclosure on key issues is selective and half-baked. That’s just not good enough.

Last week, on a return trip from B.C.’s Gulf Islands, I happened to drive by Vancouver’s B.C. Place Stadium, where construction of the world’s largest retractable roof for a domed stadium is just about complete.

By all accounts, the half-billion-dollar project has utterly transformed what was a dark, lifeless cave of a building into another gleaming West Coast architectural icon. The new fabric roof, supported by cables strung from dozens of soaring, 47-metre-tall masts that rim the perimeter of the stadium, will slash the facility’s annual energy costs by roughly $350,000.

Tall glass panels on the outside of the building will give it a more open and welcoming feel. The exterior facade features a two-metre-high ring of transparent material that completely encircles the structure. It will be used as a giant television screen to project light and images that will be visible for miles around.

Sound iconic? You betcha.

Oh, there are gripes, of course. The final price tag for the project will exceed original estimates by some $200 million, according to various local news reports. And with the B.C. government under pressure to balance its books, like every other province, critics say this is no time to spend big bucks to upgrade a football stadium.

But while the feuding factions in Edmonton have spent the past three years spinning their wheels, sparring with one another over how to design and finance a new downtown arena — and allowing the building’s primary tenant to call the shots, while footing only a fraction of the project’s estimated cost — Vancouver has been busy getting the job done.

The B.C. Lions will unveil their transformed home on Sept. 30th when they host the — you guessed it — Edmonton Eskimos.

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