City in dark on arena

FRANK LANDRY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

City councillors say they've been left out of the game when it comes to talk of a new downtown arena.

"I know as much as you do," Coun. Ben Henderson told reporters yesterday when asked about a new facility to replace the 35-year-old Rexall Place.

Coun. Bryan Anderson said neither Oilers owner Daryl Katz nor anyone from the Oilers organization has spoken to councillors about their plans.

But Henderson also stressed it's early in the process, and the Oilers will eventually have to seek council's approval before moving ahead.

"The debate will happen," Henderson said.

The Oilers are eying several downtown locations for a massive new development that would include twinned arenas, a casino, condominiums and other components, Patrick LaForge, president of the Edmonton Oilers hockey club, confirmed yesterday.

News of the twin arenas was first reported by Sun Media's Graham Hicks on Thursday.

That includes the Baccarat Casino site, at the northwest corner of 101 Street and 104 Avenue, as well as the block west of the Bell Tower, between 102 Street and 103 Street, south of 104 Avenue.

There are other parcels of land under consideration as well, but those locations were not disclosed, other than they're downtown as well.

LaForge said a suitable site will be selected "in the months ahead." Questions remain about who would own and pay for the facility, he said. "We've done a lot of work but we've got so much ahead of us," LaForge said.

A report released last year said an arena alone would cost $450 million, excluding land costs. Katz has pledged $100 million.

Mayor Stephen Mandel said last week he would be open to using a community revitalization levy in the area surrounding the new building to help pay for some of the facility.

It would work by seeing a portion of taxes paid by new neighbourhood developments set aside for the arena.

Mandel has also said he would prefer the new arena be owned by the city.

But LaForge said it may also be owned by the Katz Group.

"Who owns it ... is yet to be known," he said.

Coun. Jane Batty said there's no question the development would be a "huge boon" to the downtown.

"Having said that, there's a huge dollar attached to it," she said. "We'll have to see where the money will come from."

In a release, Northlands, which operates Rexall Place, says it will be involved in new arena discussions. The Oilers current lease at Rexall Place expires in 2014.

FRANK.LANDRY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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