There’s nothing like a public fight over private vs. public money for sports arenas. And while this blog looked at a privately funded project at the University of Washington last week (and has also discussed privately funded projects at the University of Oregon in the past), let’s turn our focus to an effort to revitalize a portion of downtown Edmonton, Alberta, with a combination of public and private money, now that the city of Edmonton recently signed off on the agreement. And the lynchpin of the project? A new sports arena, of course.
The group led by Edmonton Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz has been on a push to use a $450 million NHL hockey complex to anchor the new Edmonton Arena District, with $125 million coming from the city of Edmonton and $100 million from Katz. A Facility Improvement Fee paid by users will pull in another $125 million. But the additional $100 million still hasn’t been spoken for, although both the city and Katz appear confident that provincial infrastructure funds could make up the final funding gap.
While Edmonton already hosts NHL hockey and easily sells out their current venue on a routine basis, Katz says the city needs a new arena to keep the Oilers viable, since the current Rexall Place venue is one of the smallest in the league, is the second oldest and caps revenue abilities with its lack of luxury amenities, suits and more.
With the threat of moving the Oilers as the backdrop, the city has agreed to the Katz Group’s financial framework and received a promise the team wouldn’t leave the city for the next 35 years.
As the norm with arena-anchored revitalization plans, the proposed Edmonton Arena District provides a lift to the entire district north of Jasper Avenue. Along with the 18,500-seat arena set to open for the 2015-16 season, expect a community rink, hotels, residential space, office towers, student residences (for nearby Grant MacEwan University), a casino, retail space and The Winter Garden, a year-round, climate-controlled public space that bridges two areas and ties together various elements of the proposed district.
Along with the Katz plan, the city has agreed to buy additional downtown land to expand rapid transit to the area.
The Katz Group hasn’t unveiled any specific design plans for the area. Sure, they have some nifty looking artist renderings of the entire area and despite a public request for proposals for architects, haven’t released any concrete drawings yet, instead saying now is a time to focus on the process with the city.
So, we’ll wait to see who will design the arena, what firm will construct the larger district and, of course, who will end up footing the final bill for the entire project.