Downtown arena: who’s paying for it?

Next Thursday May 6th, the Katz Group will host a public open house at the Art Gallery of Alberta showcasing their plans for the Edmonton Arena District from 11 am to 8pm. The goal is to provide the public an opportunity to learn more about the amenities of the District and provide detail on what it will look like, including parking, traffic flow and some conceptual drawings.

It’s great that the Katz Group wants to showcase their vision on what should be a wonderful downtown district, and a facility/area that should revitalize the downtown core. However, there will be no presentation on the most important factor: Who will fund it?

I have no doubt the Edmonton Arena District (EAD) will be spectacular and is something the city needs, but when you go look at an open house, what’s the first question? How much will it cost?

We’ve all been car shopping or house hunting, or even window shopping in the mall, and no matter how much we like the car, house or pair of jeans we always look at the price tag. If you can afford it, you’ll buy it. If you can’t then normally you don’t.

Regardless of how spectacular the EAD looks, if the Katz Group wants taxpayers to fund it, but the Oilers get to own it, it won’t fly. Earlier today on the TEAM 1260, Patrick LaForge mentioned the following projects that have benefited their respective cities. But in these three cities, the majority of the funding for the arena or the development was private.

Here’s an excerpt from the Lighthouse Project’s website.

How much will the Lighthouse project cost Nassau County, and how will it affect the County’s budget? Nassau County will NOT be providing ANY financial support for this project. Currently, the County loses $1.5 million on the Coliseum and has no money in its budget to improve the Coliseum or the surrounding area. However, the Lighthouse will help the County’s budget, creating a profit from the lease of the Coliseum and generating millions in incremental tax revenues, putting the Coliseum back on County tax rolls.

I’m curious why the Katz Group would have an open house, without determining where the funding will come from first. I’m not ignorant enough to realize that negotiating through the media is the right way to go about securing financing, and I’ve been told that talks are ongoing concerning who will fund this project, but why show the people what the project will look like if it isn’t a guarantee to come to fruition?

I’m on record as saying I’m all for the construction of an EAD. I think our city needs it and our residents deserve it, and if taxpayers have to pay a portion of that, I’m all for it. The open house will be informative about traffic, parking, and the design, but it won’t answer the question that most will want an answer to: How much will it cost?

And until the question is answered, the Oilers and the Katz Group need to be careful about comparing the EAD to any other districts, because if you compare it to one that is predominantly privately funded it will be difficult to sell Edmontonians on funding the EAD through municipal taxes.

Fake news: can you imagine…?

The Edmonton Oilers announced they have relieved long time anthem singer Paul Lorieau of his duties, effective immediately.

Management feels the Oilers slow starts in home games can be directly attributed to Mr. Lorieau. On several occasions, the coaching staff had tried to pass along last minute instructions to the team, only to be told the following:

"Quiet! I’m trying to listen to the F’ing song!"

— Larry in Sherwood Park