City council votes to continue work on downtown arena
Published Tuesday, July 17, 2012 11:13AM MDT Last Updated Tuesday, July 17, 2012 6:49PM MDT
Hours after city council started discussing the latest report on the downtown arena project, council passed the motion to move ahead with developing the design for the new arena.
The motion was passed, although three councillors: Linda Sloan, Kerry Diotte and Tony Caterina voted against it.
Throughout Tuesday afternoon, councillors had been discussing ways to cut the budget for the project – which had recently been slated to be millions over the agreed-upon price of $450 million.
In recent days, the public has learned the facility is over budget by more than $30 million – to a total projected budget of $485 million.
“I think it’s shown that the price can be brought in at the 450 level,” Mayor Stephen Mandel said. “Again, I think citizens have clearly stated don’t diminish the beauty of the arena to save a couple of dollars, not going crazy with it, but we have to find a balance.”
So far planners have taken away some of the food and beverage areas within the facility, eliminated the Oilers store and changed some of the materials for flooring and the exterior of the building.
"At the end of the day it’s not our money it’s taxpayers’ money, so it’s much more difficult to spend that than our own,” Councillor Tony Caterina said. “There’s another solution to this. If there were any cost overruns I would expect Katz Group to come up front now and say that they would cover those in that event – they haven’t said that so far.”
The city needs to find some room as cost estimates at this stage of the process could fluctuate either way by 20 per cent. Twenty-one million dollars in contingency funding has been factored into the project cost.
Administrators have recommended that council go ahead with further design development based on the latest design schematics. However, before any shovels can hit the ground, the city and the Edmonton Arena Corporation must agree on the guaranteed maximum price.
Councillor Linda Sloan admits she isn’t sure councillors will hear anything new when it comes to Tuesday’s report.
“I think the wheels are in motion, there’s going to be an attempt made to try to push this through to get council’s approval to move it to the next step, even though we don’t have a complete funding model for the arena," Councillor Sloan said.
While council works to cut down the new numbers, a major funding gap remains in the original budget.
City officials are still trying to secure $100 million in funding from the province – an amount that was part of 17 conditions discussed when the arena agreement was made.
With files from Laura Tupper & Kevin Armstrong