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How would a new entertainment and sports district downtown benefit the people of Edmonton and surrounding communities?
An entertainment and sports district downtown would create jobs, spur investment, expand the City's tax base, help drive the economy and make Edmonton a better and more attractive place to live, work and play. It would bring more restaurants, shops, entertainment and performing arts venues, and new public spaces into the heart of our city. Imagine meeting friends at your regular restaurant or sports bar before a game or a concert and then walking a few minutes to the event. That's what we're talking about here in Edmonton.
You only have to look at what has happened in places like San Diego, Columbus, Indianapolis and Los Angeles to see how powerful these kinds of projects can be for creating a new sense of excitement and identity in the heart of a city.
The Mayor's Leadership Committee report said it best: "It has to be downtown." Research on this issue strongly indicates that downtown arenas can spur additional development, economic growth and civic life.
The Oilers play in the second oldest and second smallest building in the NHL and in the league's smallest media market. This puts the team at a significant economic and competitive disadvantage to other teams in the league, which have broader corporate bases of season ticket holders and potential broadcast revenues.
Contributing to this disadvantage is the fact that the Oilers are the only team in the NHL not to share non-hockey arena revenues.
A new downtown sports and entertainment venue is critical to ensuring the Oilers' long-term competitiveness and sustainability. But it's not just the Oilers who need a new arena, it's Edmonton. That was the conclusion of a report by the Mayor's Leadership Committee [PDF], which stated that, "the greatest opportunity for Edmonton lies in developing a new facility that will revitalize [Edmonton's] downtown and add to the excitement that is just starting to build in our core."
The Mayor's Leadership Committee, which was made up of representatives from the City, Northlands, the Oilers and business and community leaders, looked at that option and decided against it. A study in 2008 conducted by HOK Sports, a leading international sports architecture firm, put the cost of modernizing Rexall Place at $250 million. We expect that would have to be funded entirely with public money and, of course, would do nothing to revitalize downtown and little to spur other private sector investment.
We also understand a renovated Rexall Place may have up to 1,000 fewer seats than the current arena, which would negatively impact revenue and further weaken the long-term sustainability of the team.
On July 21, 2010, Edmonton City Council passed a resolution directing city administration to begin discussions with the Katz Group and Northlands on a framework for the financing and operations of a downtown arena. Our talks with city administration are ongoing.
In his presentation to Edmonton City Council on July 21, Daryl Katz made clear that he is prepared to invest $100 million directly into the construction of a new arena. He also committed to signing a location agreement as part of a lease in a new downtown arena that would keep the Oilers in Edmonton. And Mr. Katz stated he intends to invest at least another $100 million in leading the development of the entertainment district around the arena.
When combined with his investment of $200 million to purchase the Oilers, that is a $400 million investment that would create a major catalyst in the ongoing revitalization of downtown and help ensure the long-term sustainability of the Oilers in Edmonton.
In the NHL, 24 out of the 30 cities have had public money going into the construction of their arenas. While arenas may not generate enough revenues to be sustainable on a stand-alone basis, that doesn't mean there isn't a return on public investment.
The Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) is drawn from the enhanced tax revenue from the developments in and around the district. The CRL would pay down the city's loan and then create a revenue stream in perpetuity.
In addition, the public has a strong interest in job creation during construction and afterwards. Downtown arena districts have been proven to spur broad economic revitalization, heighten property values and increase municipal revenues. Vibrant urban cores also create benefits such as civic pride, tourism and the ability to attract and retain talented people.
We want to leverage this world-class entertainment and sports venue to make Edmonton a better and more attractive place to live, work and play. In the past, the City of Edmonton has used public funding for a number of projects that have similarly enhanced the city, including the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Winspear, the Convention Centre and Rexall Place itself. We are following the recommendations of The Leadership Committee report [PDF], which called for a mix of public and private funding, stating: "Given the scale of investment required, and the potential impact a new downtown sports/entertainment facility would have on the community, the most appropriate funding structure will require both private and public participation."
Well-designed downtown arenas have been shown to create jobs, economic activity and civic pride and identity. These things all have value to their host city that goes well beyond the revenues generated for the arena owner or operator. This is why the vast majority of NHL arenas have been built with some component of public investment and why private investment is seldom sufficient for an arena development.
Alberta is currently experiencing unprecedented economic growth. The provincial government estimates that there are roughly $232 billion worth of projects just completed, currently underway or committed to, and the bulk of these projects are in central and northern Alberta. The companies fueling this growth are all looking for more than just office space; they need the kind of world-class infrastructure that will help them attract and retain great people.
With the Oilers' lease at Rexall Centre expiring in 2014 and the need for a new arena to ensure the team's long-term competitiveness, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Edmonton to take a big step forward and establish its downtown as a great place to live, work and play.
In 2007, Mayor Stephen Mandel assembled a group of business and community leaders, including representatives from the City of Edmonton, Northlands and the Edmonton Oilers, to look at the potential of constructing a new sports and entertainment facility in the city of Edmonton. The committee conducted a wide-ranging, in-depth investigation, consulting with sports, business and community representatives in Edmonton and throughout North America. It concluded that Edmonton needs a new arena, and that the new arena must be downtown. In their final report, released in March 2008, they said that a new facility that would revitalize downtown is Edmonton's "greatest opportunity." Click here [PDF] to read the Leadership Committee's final report.
Our vision for a new entertainment and sports district is a "destination" where people live, work and play. It would include office towers, hotels, a casino, residential housing, live music venues, lounges and coffee houses, all anchored by a world-class entertainment and sports venue and a new home for the Edmonton Oilers and Oil Kings.
The Winter Garden solves the fundamental challenge of getting people safely over 104th Avenue, to and from the rest of downtown. It turns the challenge of bridging 104th Avenue into a big opportunity to do something extraordinary with this development.
We see the Winter Garden as a landmark for the city and a magnet that will bring people together and send them out into a vibrant new urban core. It will be approximately one acre of climate controlled public space that will be home to year-round activity and tie the various elements of the district to each other and to downtown.
There are some great examples in cities around the world where "Winter Gardens" or "Great Halls" have proven to be magnetic gathering spots for people.
Street-level activity is an important component of the district. Not only will this add to the vibrancy of the area, it will help to ensure the viability of the merchants who set up shop in the district. As such, we are planning street facing entrances to shops as well as a number of other novel concepts to help ensure people can enjoy walking in and around the district.
As currently planned, the district will house 3,000 heated underground parking spots - in addition to the 12,000 more spots that already exist within a 10-minute walk. Beyond the sheer capacity of parking downtown, games and concerts generally take place at night and on weekends - when demand for parking is low. So parking won't be an issue. And neither will traffic.
Bunt & Associates, a leading Canadian transportation planning and engineering firm, estimate that our downtown has more than enough spare capacity to accommodate event-related traffic, even during peak hours, which is not when most of the big events take place.
More than that, we know that many people who come to the district will already be downtown for work, or they'll come early and stay late to meet friends at a bar, to have dinner, or to go to the casino. Not only does that generate economic activity, it means there are far fewer people moving to and from the area at any one time.
Of course, there is also the option of public transit. New LRT lines, for example, are set to be built alongside the north side of the entertainment and arena district as well as a line slated just a block south of the area.
On July 21, 2010, Edmonton City Council passed a resolution directing city administration to enter into discussions with the Katz Group and Northlands on a framework for the financing and operations of a potential downtown arena. To read the resolution, click here. City administration continues to work to advance those discussions.
We recognize this project is really all about the kind of future Edmonton wants to have, so we expect, want and welcome a healthy, public dialogue. We've had dozens of meetings we have had with local community organizations, pubic speaking engagements and online conversations and saw over 2,600 Edmontonians visit our open house at the Art Gallery of Alberta in May. That feedback has had - and continues to have - an influence on the design of the project, which is still evolving.
The City of Edmonton is also conducting its consultation process. Input gathered through the City's open houses and online questionnaire will be put in a report going to City Council early in 2011.
It is too early to say how long a new arena will take to build. Once we have a design in place, we will have a much better sense of the construction timeline. It is fair to say that developments of this scale take several years to complete. Our hope is to gain City approval for the project early in 2011, then begin the detailed design of the arena and entertainment district, break ground in 2012 and have the Oilers playing in a new downtown arena for the beginning of the 2014 NHL season.
Anschutz Entertainment Group, or AEG, is one of the world's leading sports and entertainment companies. In addition to owning and operating a host of sports and entertainment franchises and facilities, AEG is overseeing the final development stages of L.A. LIVE, a 4-million square foot, $2.5 billion sports, residential and entertainment district in downtown Los Angeles adjacent to the company's STAPLES Center arena. AEG has also been a key player in developing The O2, a 28-acre development in London, UK, that includes a 20,000-seat arena and over 650,000 square feet of leisure, retail, hospitality, exhibition and entertainment facilities.
In December 2009, the Katz Group engaged AEG to advise on all aspects of the development of the Edmonton Arena District. Read the full press release, here.
We have made the involvement of local companies a priority for this project. While some aspects of the development will require expertise from across North America, or around the world, the Katz Group has made a firm commitment to use local companies wherever possible.
You can let your elected representatives at all levels of government know of your position on the Arena District. You can also sign up at the top of this page to receive updates and notices for upcoming events.