Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume, left, and Premier Jean Charest are asking the federal government to match the province's commitment to plans for a new arena. ((CBC))

The plan to lure the NHL back to Quebec City was stepped up a notch Tuesday when Premier Jean Charest confirmed the province is ready to pay up to 45 per cent of the cost to build a new arena.

Quebec City has already confirmed $50 million towards the project and Charest is calling on the federal government to get involved in the project, which he said could cost about $400 million.

The decision was based on a study prepared by the firm Ernst & Young, which concluded that a new arena would be profitable. The study had been ordered by Équipe Québec, the group behind the capital's Olympic bid.

Following a meeting with Mayor Régis Labeaume, Charest said a new arena would be "sustainable and profitable."

"It doesn't make any sense that the provincial capital doesn't have a multi-functional arena, no matter what the scenario is," said Charest. "Whether there are Olympic Games, or not, whether there is a National Hockey League team, or not, Quebec City should have an arena."

Without an NHL team, however, the new arena would be unable to generate sufficient revenue to respect its financial obligations and pay for its own maintenance, said Équipe Québec president Claude Rousseau.

In an optimal scenario, where the arena would be used 127 days a year and would not house an NHL team, the Ernst & Young study said the facility should generate revenue of $7.8-million a year.

The cost of operating the arena would be about $6.8 million, plus $4.5 million in annual repairs and renovations.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Chuck Strahl said Wednesday the federal government is "very interested" in knowing whether the project can work, because they would like to see the NHL return to Quebec City.

He said Ottawa is reviewing the feasibility study that supports the construction of a new multipurpose arena.

Quebec City has been without an NHL team since the Nordiques left for Colorado in 1995.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said a new arena would be essential for the league to consider a return to Quebec City.

With files from The Canadian Press