Roundup: Reaction to the latest downtown arena vote

On Wednesday afternoon, City Council approved a financial framework for the new downtown arena. The vote passed 10-3, with Diotte, Iveson, and Sloan voting against. Council also agreed to spend $30 million to complete the design of the arena to 60%, to enable contractors to bid on the construction project with a Guaranteed Maximum Price of $450 million. From the news release:

“A new downtown arena is a catalyst for revitalizing downtown. This is a fair agreement and will help sustain NHL hockey in Edmonton while increasing economic activity in the city,” says City Manager Simon Farbrother. “It will also improve land values and the livability and sustainability of Edmonton for all citizens.”

John Karvellas from the Katz Group also issued a statement:

“We very much appreciate City Council’s strong vote of support for the downtown arena, as well as the considerable time and effort Mayor Mandel and City Administration, in particular, have put into this project. We will work with the City administration to understand the implications of the new elements of the deal introduced in today’s motion in the context of the agreements that need to be completed by month-end.”

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman also shared some comments:

“I am thrilled for the City of Edmonton and I want to congratulate and thank Mayor Mandel and Daryl Katz for their hard work and commitment. The future of the Oilers couldn’t be brighter.”

I was paying attention to the meeting on Wednesday, and as the vote approached I tweeted much of Council’s final remarks. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Mayor Mandel: “I have not had one, not one call since SLRT opened about what it cost us to build.”
  • Mayor Mandel: “Today is about making a decision to change our downtown.”
  • Mayor Mandel: “This is a project about Northern Alberta, it’s not just about Edmonton. The province should come to the table.”
  • Councillor Anderson: “Thank goodness he lives here.” (referring to Daryl Katz)
  • Councillor Anderson: “I believe that the casino and the gravel project would sit for another several decades if this does not go forward.”
  • Councillor Anderson: “We all have to remember however, that no matter how we vote on this, it is still subject to $100 million appearing from somewhere.”
  • Councillor Batty: “I applaud Daryl Katz for his perseverance.”
  • Councillor Gibbons: “Hopefully we can work toward keeping Edmonton on the map.”
  • Councillor Gibbons: “We’ve done such a good job of growing out, maybe we can grow back inside.”
  • Councillor Gibbons: “I’ve travelled all over the world, and a great city has to have a great downtown.”
  • Councillor Leibovici: “We do have a downtown that needs a bit of a lift.”
  • Councillor Leibovici: “Do we need an arena? Yes. Do we need to change what we have? Yes.”
  • Councillor Leibovici: “A lot of this reminds me of the airport debate.”
  • Councillor Sohi: “I know it’s not a perfect deal, but it’s a reasonable deal that I can defend to the people I represent.”
  • Councillor Krushell: “It’s time to tell the Prongers of this world that Edmonton is not just a city with great people.”
  • Councillor Krushell: “The project will play a key part in revitalizing our downtown, and that is why I am supporting this.”
  • Councillor Loken: “This is a game-changer in my mind.”
  • Councillor Loken: “This is about Edmonton, this is about vision, this is about the future.”
  • Councillor Diotte: “There’s no reason to agree to a bad deal.”
  • Councillor Diotte: “I think we can all agree that the majority of Edmontonians want to see a new downtown arena.”
  • Councillor Sloan: “I maintain grave reservations about the costs and associated risks that the City is undertaking.”
  • Councillor Sloan: “I am further concerned that a lack of clarity has resulted in both Council and Admin losing face in the public.”
  • Councillor Caterina: “I’m comfortable that this is a much fairer deal than what was brought back from New York.”
  • Councillor Henderson: “I’m prepared to continue moving forward because I think at this point that our interests are being served.”
  • Councillor Henderson: “I don’t think the arena by itself is the magic wand.”
  • Councillor Iveson: “Nothing would anger me more in my old age than to see this debate play out again in my lifetime.”
  • Councillor Iveson: “I’m sold on what a new arena can do for our downtown, but I believe a better deal can be found.”

Slowly but surely, our Councillors are becoming more familiar with the tools and technologies available to them. Three Councillors blogged their final remarks, something I’d like to see the norm rather than the exception.

Many people tweeted about the news on Wednesday, and as I showed in my brief analysis, the response seemed to be mostly positive. There was also a fairly active thread on Connect2Edmonton about the deal.

Here’s what Paula Simons wrote about the deal:

“On Wednesday, Mayor Stephen Mandel described the arena as something to benefit all of northern Alberta. Sohi called on Edmontonians to petition Premier Alison Redford for financial support. Indeed, the province may be more willing to come up with the necessary cash, perhaps by some sleight of hand with casino money, now that the city and the Katz Group have come to terms. But this story, dear readers, isn’t over. We’ve just taken a whole new plot twist.”

Here’s what John MacKinnon wrote:

“Now that Oilers owner Daryl Katz’s downtown arena project is a qualified ‘go,’ maybe people can focus on what should have been the main issue all along: how this facility will help transform Edmonton’s downtown.”

Here’s what Gary Lamphier had to say:

“As I’ve said repeatedly over the past couple of years, I’d love to see a new downtown arena. But not at any price. I don’t think this deal represents anything close to an equitable sharing of risks and rewards between Katz Group and city taxpayers.”

In that same article, U of A sports economist Brad Humphreys shared his thoughts:

“It’s a terrible deal. They’re still short $100 million and I don’t see it going very far until they come up with the remainder of the funding.”

Here is what David Staples wrote:

“So did we get fleeced? Not even close. This is a good deal, far better than the existing Oilers deal at Rexall, and certainly right in line with what we see in terms of public/private funding models for new arenas in other NHL cities.”

Here is what Terry Jones wrote:

“The late great city of Edmonton has dared to be great again.”

Northlands CEO Richard Andersen hasn’t made many statements since the vote, but the Sun quoted him yesterday:

“We want to move on and get busy doing the other things we do. This is a huge distraction.”

Oilers star Taylor Hall tweeted his reaction to the news:

“Excited news on the new arena for Edmonton. In other news @ebs_14 and I got iPhones and they put BlackBerrys to shame.”

Here is what Yukon Jack wrote in his column:

“Finally! Finally another step in the downtown arena project. To say this thing is moving at a glacier’s pace is an insult to climate change.”

Bruce Urban, owner of the Edmonton Rush, is a fan of the project:

“It’s very exciting. Let’s picture Downtown Edmonton with this beautiful arena, the businesses that will follow, the restaurants and entrepreneurs who will follow. It’s very exciting for the city.”

The Calgary Herald asked Flames CEO Ken King to comment and received this statement:

“The news coming out of Edmonton regarding their new building is wonderful.  A state of the art new facility will be a great boon to their community and create a viable future for their team.”

Writing for the National Post, here is what Jesse Kline had to say:

“This is nothing more than corporate welfare, and by threatening to relocate the Oilers, Mr. Katz was essentially threatening to make business decisions based on how much money he can extract from local governments, rather than what city is the best market to do business in.”

The Edmonton Sun said that with the deal done, it is time to move on:

“City council has decided to proceed with a package that will see a major chunk of downtown Edmonton revitalized. It has been an acrimonious two-year debate, and the sensible move at this point is for the city to move forward together.”

The Edmonton Journal said the decision was the right call for our city:

“In this corner, the belief is that all Edmontonians will benefit – from economic spinoffs boosting the tax base, from the proliferation of non-hockey entertainment options that they will use, from the greater future attractiveness of Edmonton as a place to live, and from the fact that NHL hockey will now be guaranteed to remain a key part of community pride for at least the next 35 years.”

I’m sure I have missed some reaction, but I think the quotes I have highlighted are fairly representative.