The downtown arena project took a big step forward today as City Council voted to purchase the land proposed as the site for the project and the Katz Group made some concessions in order to further the negotiations. With options on the land expiring at the end of the month and a decision required by October 21, Council had to move quickly. They decided to postpone a final decision on the arena project until October 26, however.
City Manager Simon Farbrother provided an update on this week’s meetings in New York and the ongoing negotiations between the City and the Katz Group. You can view his presentation in PDF here. The highlights include:
- There was no change in the maximum price approach (still $450 million), nor in the user fee (ticket tax) of $125 million, nor in the City’s contribution of $125 million ($45 million to come from the CRL).
- There was no change in the location agreement of 35 years.
- While the Katz Group reconfirmed its commitment of $100 million to the arena, the funding has been restructured as a $5.5 million lease for 30 years.
- The LRT connection now has an estimated cost of $17 million.
- The cost for the pedway over 104 Avenue (also known as the winter garden) will be split evenly between the City and the Katz Group, with the City contributing a maximum of $25 million.
- The City will now operate the community rink.
- The design process will now potentially commence before the province has confirmed any contribution.
- The City will spend $20 million over 10 years to market itself through advertising at Oilers games (this is over and above the $450 million and will be introduced in a future City budget).
- And the biggest change, the Katz Group agreed to waive the requirement for a non-compete clause with Northlands.
With Council agreeing to purchase the land and the Katz Group agreeing to waive the non-compete requirement, the project certainly feels like it is back on track. Terry Jones called Mandel the MVP and Katz the first star in the arena project. There is still the outstanding $100 million, however, and both parties will continue to pursue provincial funding for that.
Today’s Council meeting was the talk of Twitter, as expected. This graph shows the frequency of tweets posted over the four hour meeting:
Here’s a word cloud of all the tweets posted in Edmonton during the meeting:
The non-compete clause was definitely a big topic of discussion. For its part, the Katz Group issued a simple statement from Executive Vice President John Karvellas after today’s meeting:
We respect the City’s process and appreciate the time Council and Administration devoted to the arena project in today’s special meeting. We have the basis of an agreement that will enable us to move this project forward, subject to the approval of City Council on October 26, 2011. We continue to believe, as we have from day one, that this project represents a great opportunity to help revitalize our downtown and ensure the Oilers’ long-term sustainability in Edmonton.
The next step will be a non-statutory public hearing on October 24/25, with Council set to make its final decision on the arena project on October 26. As I mentioned earlier, if you want to voice your opinion on the deal one way or the other, the number one thing you can do is email your City Councillor.