MPs leery of spending federal funds on downtown arena’s community rink, councillor Mike Nickel says
Coun. Mike Nickel says MPs don’t want federal money going toward the community rink attached to the downtown arena if the Oilers will be using it.
Photograph by: Supplied, City of Edmonton
EDMONTON - Coun. Mike Nickel says MPs don’t want federal money going toward the community rink attached to the downtown arena if the Oilers will be using it.
Funding for the $23-million rink is supposed to include $7 million each from the federal and provincial governments, but Nickel told city council Wednesday he’s concerned about the federal portion.
“My conversations with various MPs and other types has been very clear, that they will not (contribute) unless given 100-per-cent assurance that the community rink is a community rink and there’s no usage by the Oilers.”
The big issue for federal officials is how time in the facility will be allocated, Nickel, who wouldn’t identify the people with whom he spoke, said later.
“They said to me money cannot go to a private sports franchise, so the rules around a community rink have to be very clear.”
But Mayor Don Iveson said the Oilers will pay market prices to rent the ice, and will share time with MacEwan University — which is putting in $2 million — and other organizations.
“If access was going to be subsidized, that would be an issue. There’s some misunderstanding here, because no one is going to get to use the rink for free,” Iveson said.
“Any for-profit organization is going to pay full cost-recovery, just like any other rink that they might book today.”
The arena and the community rink will share an ice plant and other expenses, making it cheaper to locate them beside each other than to build them in different sites, city manager Simon Farbrother said.
The Oilers mainly want time during the day and other groups want to be on the ice at night, which should reduce conflicting demands, he said.
City staff will handle scheduling.
Farbrother plans to seek money from the Building Canada Fund once the program starts taking applications, calling $7 million “a fairly small request.”
Coun. Dave Loken sounded optimistic the application will be successful.
“Despite the musings of some MPs out there, that looks pretty promising.”
Meanwhile, the source of the provincial funding is also uncertain.
Premier Alison Redford wrote a letter to former mayor Stephen Mandel last June in which she refused to provide $7 million for the community rink, saying Edmonton could redirect other infrastructure funds to it.
But Coun. Scott McKeen wants the city to fill the gap if contributions for the project from the other two levels of government come up short.
“The idea is to have a community facility in an area where there’s not much rec facilities provided by the city,” he said.
“Relative to some of the other investments in rec centres we’ve made around the city, $14 million is not a huge amount, and it helps make up somewhat of a deficiency in the area, where we want to attract infill development.”
The arena is on track to meet its $480-million guaranteed maximum construction price, which would allow building to start in March for a scheduled September 2016 completion date.
Once the final price is settled, likely in February, any cost-overruns will be the responsibility of the contractor, Farbrother said.
There will also be a guaranteed price for the other $125-million worth of work around the site, including the pedestrian bridge across 104th Avenue and an LRT connection, he said.
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