Hearing iced: rezoning application for new Edmonton arena delayed

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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EDMONTON — A public hearing on a rezoning application for a proposed new hockey arena and entertainment district in Edmonton has been postponed.

Daryl Katz, owner of the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League, wants to build a $1-billion-plus arena, entertainment, retail and office development on the northern edge of the downtown core.

But on Monday, the Katz Group’s point man on the project said the group wants to first figure out how it will be paid for — or more specifically, how much public money they want.

“It has become clear to us that the questions with respect to the funding model have been distracting from the zoning application,” said Bob Black, the group’s executive vice president of sports and entertainment.

The public hearing — required by law for every application to rezone land — was scheduled for June 28.

Now Black hopes to have it sometime in the fall, but couldn’t say if they’d have it done and ready for public scrutiny before or after November’s civic election.

The company will use the extra time to work out its financing plan, which it insists is a completely separate issue from the rezoning application.

When Katz first bought the Oilers in 2008, he said he wanted to move the team out of its current arena at Northlands and into a new downtown facility.

He pledged $100 million to what was expected to be about a $400-million project. Where the rest of the money was to come from remained to be seen.

But when his corporation unveiled its grand plan in February, things had changed.

The suggestion was made that the city could borrow $400 million to build the arena while the Katz Group developed commercial and residential properties around it. Its $100 million commitment to the arena could come from the increased property taxes collected.

After a public outcry, company officials backtracked and said this was only a suggestion. The exact funding model, they said, had yet to be worked out.

Black said Katz Group officials will take the summer to work out a financing plan “that will best meet the needs of all concerned.”

They’ll also tinker with their rezoning application “to reflect the input we’ve received from the public, and otherwise.”

Scott Mackie of the city’s planning department said City Hall had some concerns about “design details” to make sure it conforms to the overall downtown plan, which is aimed at building more areas for pedestrians.

“With additional time we can continue working on it,” he said.

Katz Group officials still hope to begin construction in early 2012.

(Edmonton Sun)

Organizations: Katz Group, Edmonton Oilers, National Hockey League

Geographic location: Edmonton

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