A new downtown arena would revitalize downtown Edmonton, say city officials, who say most city residents approve of a new Edmonton Oilers (NHL) arena — the issue is to what extent the city will pay for it and by what means.
Yesterday the mayor released answers to 140 questions about the arena, submitted by residents and city councillors. Most of the questions were of the garden variety: How much a new arena would cost, how much the Oilers would be willing to pay, and what the impact would be on downtown Edmonton. ($450 million, $100 million, and positive were the basic responses.) You can view the full report below.
Some of the issues raised were on the edgier side. For starters, there’s not a lot of appeal for using general funds to pay for a new arena; it sounds like the city is looking at the establishment of a Community Revitalization Levy, or CRL, as well as a ticket surcharge, to generate revenue. A CRL would use increased taxes from the area around the arena to actually help pay for the arena. (For our American friends, it’s the Canadian equivalent of tax-increment financing.) The combination of both could yield as much as C$14 million a year, through the CRL portion of that equation (some $4 million annually) is a more speculative and loaded on the back end of a 20-year forecast. The Oilers will probably need to step up and guarantee to cover shortfalls to some extent.
The other edgy issue: What happens to Rexall Place? Though there’s some sentiment for renovating it, the Oilers say that’s not an option. The Oilers would like to see it go; Northlands, the group running it, wants to see it continue with a C$2 million annual subsidy or else give Northlands management powers at the new arena. There’s not a city that can support two arenas, and with some serious money needed to address the aging facility (the mayor’s office outlined C$31 million in needed maintenance over the next several years), the handwriting is on the wall. And with the Oilers wanting to manage the new arena on their own, a play for downtown may come up short.
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