People in Edmonton shouldn't be too quick to dismiss the Katz Group's vision for downtown development, says Mayor Stephen Mandel.
The plan is for a collection of hotels, residences and other commercial buildings, centred around a new arena and a public space dubbed the "Winter Garden".
Officials for the Katz Group said Tuesday they would lead a partnership to invest in the development, but suggested the city should pay for and own an arena.
"You know we do this all the time, we spent how many millions of dollars on the Fort Road, we've spent $150 million on recreation centres," said Mandel. "Let's look at this and give it the same chance for success as everything else, not try to find a way to say no."
The city has always understood that Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz was willing to put $100 million into the arena in the form of investment, Mandel said, and he expects that commitment will be fulfilled.
"You know, Mr.Katz is trying redevelop something downtown. Let's not throw the baby and the bathwater out," Mandel said.
"Let's look at the proposal, and try to find a way to support it, and make our city a better place."
'The beginning of a long negotiation'
People in Edmonton are witnessing the beginning of a long negotiation over the future of downtown, said Dan Mason, a sports business professor at the University of Alberta.
"I don't think we can really comment on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, this is just a starting point," said Mason.
Other cities in North America, like San Diego, have gone through this kind of development debate, he said.
"The city put forward money to build a baseball park there, but the owner of the franchise — who was also the real estate developer there — guaranteed that there was going to be tax revenues to service the debt. So it's public money, but it's guaranteed by the developer."
One thing in Edmonton's favour, Mason said, is that all the players in the arena debate appear to have the interests of the city in mind.
"I don't think it's necessarily a poker game, because I think that not everyone is in to win it for themselves. I think that this is something where you're getting some consensus here."
"But at the end of the day, hopefully this is going to be designed in a way where everybody wins."