5 things to watch in today's downtown arena update

Wednesday could be big day in the long process to build an arena in downtown Edmonton.
Council is scheduled to get an update from administration on Wednesday about talks to build the downtown arena.

Wednesday is shaping up to be a big day in the long, protracted negotiations between Edmonton city council and Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz over the new downtown arena.

The update at today’s council meeting was scheduled last month but reports that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman met Friday in Edmonton with Mayor Stephen Mandel, city manager Simon Farbrother and the Katz Group has raised expectations about what will be revealed.

The CBC’s Scott Liwall (@scott_lilwall), Scott Fralick (@ScottFralick)  and Lydia Neufeld (@LydiaNeufeldCBC) will be live-tweeting the meeting and we’re pulling their updates into a blog that goes live at 9:30 a.m. MT.

Here are five things to watch as you follow along:

1. Has the city reached a new deal with the Katz Group?

Talks resumed last month after Katz officials dropped their demand for the $6 million annual operating subsidy, a request that surprised city officials when it was first raised last summer.

Bettman convened the October 2011 meeting between Katz and city officials that led to the last framework agreement so word that he met with the same parties last week has arena proponents hoping that a tentative deal will be announced today.

2. Who is the mediator?

The motion passed by council on Dec.12 that authorized city administration to resume negotiations also allowed both sides to agree on a mediator, who would appoint a financial analyst to look at the costs.

Talks have presumably been underway since then, possibly with the help of that yet unannounced mediator.

Councillors may hear more information about who these third parties are.

3. Will the Winter Garden get the axe?

The October 2011 agreement set the maximum cost of the arena at $450 million. But the latest estimates put the price at around $478 million.

With costs going up, there is a suggestion to cut the Winter Garden pedway, which would link the arena with the rest of downtown and add an additional $50 to $70 million to the overall price.

4. Will there be any news about the outstanding $100 million in funding?

In the October 2011 agreement, contributions from Katz and the city accounted for $350 million of the project’s original $450 million cost meaning $100 million still hasn’t been secured.

The city expects the province to help but Premier Alison Redford has made it clear that her government isn’t writing the city a cheque.

The province has suggested the city could access funding by using money provided to municipalities for infrastructure projects.

Earlier this month, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith proposed that the province use a lottery to fund new arenas in Edmonton and Calgary.

A government official acknowledged that the province is in the early stages of researching how gaming could be used in such cases.

5. Will administration still present information about going it alone?

The arena saga hit a low point in October when councillors cut off negotiations with Katz after he refused to appear before council and personally explain why he needed the $6 million annual subsidy.

That prompted council to see if there were other ways to keep NHL hockey in Edmonton — in other words, whether the city could build the arena on its own.

Farbrother, the city manager, was expected to provide an update at today’s meeting. But will that happen if a deal has been reached?