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Edmonton officials accused of omitting facts in arena recommendation

Did some Edmonton city officials leave out key facts when they recommended a new arena for the city? The Canadian Taxpayers Federation thinks so.
The controversy over a proposed new arena for downtown Edmonton is heating up again.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is accusing Edmonton city officials of hiding some important facts in its review of a $450 million NHL hockey arena proposed for the downtown.

A city-funded report released in March recommended that Edmonton build a new arena to replace its aging Rexall Place and that the project be funded through a mix of private and tax dollars, a formula that has been used in many U.S. cities.

The city would fund about 70 per cent of the project by borrowing against future downtown tax revenues. Sources say in the original draft copy of the report, it was noted the NHL arenas in Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto were built with private financing alone.

The final report did not have that piece of information.

According to Lyle Best, who headed the arena committee, there was a good reason for that. "[Researchers] took that information from another report, but could not verify it to me so I took it out.," he said.

Scott henning, CTF’s Alberta Director, thinks otherwise, saying, "I don’t think most Edmontonians know that most other NHL arenas in Canada were built with 100 per cent private financing and I don’t think the committee wanted them to know, either. I think that it shows it’s very biased and not a true indication of what’s happening in this country in terms of who is paying for arenas. "

The CTF opposes any use of public funds to build a new arena.

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel also brushed off questions about the changes, saying there has been no decision yet whether to go ahead with a new arena or how it will be financed.

Daryl Katz, who recently purchased the Edmonton Oilers, has pledged to contribute $100 million for an arena.

Rexall Place, built in 1974, is the oldest NHL arena in Canada, and the third oldest in the league.