No funding in Alberta budget puts arena in question
The future of Edmonton's downtown arena is in question after $100 million in outstanding funding failed to materialize in Thursday's provincial budget.
City councillors were hoping the province would fund the arena and the attached community rink, but Edmonton only received $170 million in grants under the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI), which had already been allocated.
Finance Minister Doug Horner gave a short reply when asked about the issue on Thursday.
"That’s Edmonton’s decision. It’s not ours."
Provincial politicians have long made it clear that the government would not directly fund the arena.
When council approved the latest arena deal in January, Mayor Stephen Mandel was confident that funding would come in some other form, like a fund that municipalities could draw upon for larger projects.
Mandel was on a personal trip on Friday and not available for comment. But some city councillors expressed uncertainty about the future of the project.
Coun. Don Iveson said it’s possible that funding is buried somewhere in the budget but he suspects that council may end up having to shift money around if the arena is to proceed.
"In order to sign a deal, and in order to borrow money, and in order to send out a tender to market, we’re going to have to have all the money identified," he said.
Construction on the arena was supposed to start later this year, but Coun. Tony Caterina thinks that may be unrealistic. He said that funding questions need to be settled before work proceeds any further.
"I would say that we be very, very cautious in continued spending whether it’s design work or anything else," he said.
Coun. Amarjeet Sohi doesn’t believe that it’s necessary to have all the funding in place before shovels hit the ground.
"The reality for major infrastructure projects for the city has been that we never had secure funding in place before we proceeded with construction," he said.
Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz is providing $143 million of the $601 million required for entire project. The Katz Group declined comment on Friday.