Rumour has it this picture was taken at city hall early this week when the 7-year arena deal saga finally ended. City council voted 10-3 in favour of the final funding model, and unlike previous votes this should be the final vote as council waived the conditions, according to mayor Stephen Mandel.
The mayor made a quick appearance on my radio show on Wednesday, and he gave Mark Spector and I a quick recap of the arena deal and how we can finally move forward on the project.
Jason Gregor: Does today finally feel like the project is complete compared to other days in this process?
Mayor Mandel: I thought it was complete lots of other time, so… But I think today is the culmination and that everything seems to be in place, and it will move ahead.
Mark Spector: What about the things around the arena, when do the plans begin to break ground for the other developers?
MM: Well there are a couple of high-rise condos being built right now; there are a couple of other projects underway that will take the time it takes them. Mr. Katz has a bunch of projects planned and we hope that those will move ahead. But that is not something that we control, people have to make an investment and we think they will because it will be profitable, and we will go from there.
JG: I think that the arena is a solid central focus, but to really revitalize it, to really make downtown prosper, we need proper revitalization around it. Is there any sort of protection contingency in place to ensure the surrounding development actually occurs?
MM: No you can’t mandate people to spend a whole bunch of money. It has to be feasible and we hope that once this is now finalized that people will look at building stuff. There are lots of plans, developments, that we hear about constantly going ahead once the arena is finally put to bed. So we will see what those are. We expect them to be substantial. I would say there are maybe two or three multi-million dollar projects that are going to go ahead. This is a lot of money.
MS: This became a project that you guys seemingly just couldn’t let get away. It was a lot tougher negotiation, I will assume, than you thought in the end. But in the time that you got that close to the finish line, with everything that you just spoke about at stake, did you feel as the mayor of this city that this is just one that you couldn’t let get away on you?
MM: There are lots of projects that we’ve done which we believe were equally important. This was very special, I mean the downtown museum, the Alberta Museum was very special. This will act as a catalyst to bring 18,000 to 20,000 people downtown 200 nights a year.
We think it’s going to create opportunities for businesses downtown, solidify businesses downtown, and open up the doors for investment. So this is important. But it’s also a statement about Edmonton and that you believe in the city, that it’s a great city and it can support something like this. So it was really a statement about Edmonton and I’ve got to give Daryl Katz the credit. He persevered and he’s a tough guy to negotiate with, but that’s his choice. But the fact is that he had a vision and hopefully that vision will materialize in the areas surrounding the arena, but also in the arena.
JG: One of your councillors, Kerrie Diotte tweeted out afterwards that part of this deal is contingent on $7 million from the federal government and according to his sources they’ve never even been approached on that. Is there any truth to that?
MM: You know, Kerry Diotte can tweet what Kerry Diotte wants to tweet. He wants to represent what he wants to represent. We will apply for money from the federal government under the building Canada program which we’ve talked to the MPs about and this project will qualify for it. There hasn’t been an application for it yet, because the money hasn’t been put available. So that’s how little Kerry Diotte knows. Maybe he should do some homework before he tweets all of the time.
MS: You guys were in Brooklyn earlier this week touring around the new Barkley Centre which is widely acclaimed as a state of the art arena. What were your thoughts on that and how it might compare to the new arena in Edmonton?
MM: That won’t even be close; ours is going to be 20 times nicer. The corridors are too narrow, they didn’t have enough space. Our arena is going to be much more spectacular than theirs. Their outside is… and this isn’t belittling it because they have a wonderful facility, but their corridors are very narrow because they have a very small site. The land over there is probably worth more than $2000 a square foot. So ours will be much more spacious. The arena that’s going to be built in Edmonton is going to be a very special, special building and it’ll be the nicest one, of its kind in North America when it opens.
JG: Who has the say on what goes into the arena? The city has put in some money, so is the city part of the group who has a say in the design?
MM: That’s a cooperation between the Katz group and the city and we’re working together to come up with the best package for the greatest amount of aesthetics. We have a budget that we have to work with and the most important thing about this is that we build it so that it is a special building, which we will, which is within a special budget, which we have. So hopefully when it’s built people will come in it and they will go ‘wow.’ I think that when they approach it they will go ‘wow’ when they go in it they will go ‘wow.’
MS: They talk about construction next spring. Can they start to dig the hole sooner than that? I know that there is supposed to be several floors of parking underneath. We will start to see activity before next April?
MM: I would hope so, but I can’t comment on that. As soon as possible, we get the GMP (guaranteed maximum price) then we would start construction. So they’re getting close to that. I don’t know why it takes so long, but I’m not a contractor.
JG: Mayor, congratulations for sticking with a project that I’m sure at times infuriated you. On behalf of all Edmontonians, I say that we appreciate your leadership throughout this process.
MM: I thank you as the sports community who were very important; to make sure that the naysayers didn’t have all of the space. I appreciate all the people who stood up for this project. People like to misrepresent information because they want to state their position and it’s sad when people do that.
BREAKDOWN OF COSTS…
The total cost of the arena is $480-million and here is the breakdown:
- $120 million will come from the community revitalization levy, (CRL) which will get approval next month. This is not current tax payer dollars. The levy will use the projected $2.6-billion increase in taxes from around the arena to pay off the arena loan and fund other downtown improvements. I asked what happens if there is shortfall in the CRL, but I was told by numerous councillors and others that they are confident that won’t be an issue since the $2.6 billion is a very conservative number. As long as there is no shortfall, the CRL is a good idea.
- The Katz Group will pay $130 million (in cash and in rent).
- Ticket surcharge will make up $125 million.
- $25 million will come froma provincial fund for regional projects.
- The final $80 million will come from other city funding areas, such as parking fees. Northlands currently receives an annual subsidy of $2.6 million a year for letting the Oilers play rent-free at Rexall Place, and that amount will be part of this $80 million.
- I might be in the minority, but I don’t mind the delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass in the defensive zone. If the rule wasn’t in place defensive players would be firing the puck over the glass all the time. Chris Chelios used to do it often, and with precision. You might not want a playoff game decided on that type ofpenalty, like last night in Los Angeles, but I prefer the odd penalty to the alternative of pucks constantly flying out of play.
- Jordan Eberle has been to the World Championships four times, and his team has lost in the quarterfinals all four times. I’m not going to suggest the Canadian hockey system needs an overall, but i’d like to think Canada should be able to make the final four at least once every four years.
- Taylor Hall didn’t play very much in the tourney, in fact, by my calculations he was 11th in icetime amongst forwards. We can only speculate why he didn’t play, but I suspect he wasn’t happy about it and this could be a positive. Hall is very competitive and I believe he’ll use his lack of icetime as motivation and a learning experience.
- I also wonder if hockey Canada wanted to see if he could produce with limited minutes. If he makes the Olympic team, he likely will be a 4th line guy, and maybe Yzerman and company were watching to see how he’d handle the situation and if he could still produce. It is hard to make an impact in limited minutes, but I think Hall showed he could still be a factor in limited time, and that could help him when Yzerman, Mike Babcock and others pick the final roster.
- The Oilers’ AHL affiliate, OKC Barons, are through to the 3rd round of the AHL playoff after a convincing 4-1 series win over the Texas Stars. It should be a great experience for the young kids and the Oilers are hoping Teemu Hartikainen, Tyler Pitlick, Anton Lander and Martin Marincin will grow from this experience and push for a roster spot next season. Toni Rajala, Marc Arcobello and Taylor Fedun have also performed well according to head coach Todd Nelson, but I don’t see them being in Edmonton next season.
- The King/Queen of Karaoke party goes tonight at On The Rocks. The lineup looks solid, although Strudwick is a bit nervous, but I guarantee it will be a hell of a fun time. I’d love to sell 32 more tickets to reach our goal. Tics are $25 bucks, all proceeds go to MS Society, but you get $50 in gift cards from OTR and Oodle Noodle when you show up. You can purchase here, support a good cause and have a great time. See you tonight.