University of Alberta asks city for $20 million to build new hockey facility

A new arena at the University of Alberta’s south campus may be at risk without a $20-million investment from city council in the next few years.

The facility with two ice surfaces would serve varsity and community sports

With many older Edmonton arenas reaching the end of their lives, city council is considering proposals for $105 million worth of investment into new skating facilities at Rexall Place and the University of Alberta. (The Associated Press)

A new arena at the University of Alberta's south campus may be at risk without a $20-million investment from city council in the next few years.

A major anonymous donor behind the new facility, planned with two ice surfaces, told the university they don't want their money tied up for more than year. That means council will have to move fast, but the city has already committed its available capital funds until 2018.

Council adjusts its capital budget each year, but the amounts are traditionally small.

"It would be a serious shift to our capital budget," said Coun. Michael Walters.

The proposed arena would serve varsity sports and the community as a partnership between the city and the university. The facility would also include a high-performance training and research centre.

It would be operated by the university, but be available to the public during prime time skating hours. 

Funding is expected to come from donors and the city. The university hopes the provincial and federal governments will contribute as well.

Kerry Mummery, dean of physical education and recreation at the university, said he's not sure what will become of the project if the city doesn't commit some funding this year.

"I'm not sure what plan B is right now," he said.

He said he hopes to retain the donors, some of whom have contributed as much as $6.5 million to the project.

Coun. Bryan Anderson said the project is a good deal, considering the cost of building a new single-ice-surface arena is roughly the same price.

Two new sheets of ice would help alleviate the growing demand for ice time across the city, as a number of rinks are reaching the end of their lives.

But the project will be competing for funds with other arenas, he said.

"Lurking in everybody's mind here is the decision to invest $85 million into Northlands," Anderson said.

He said council will likely have to make a decision about whether or not to fund Northland's renovation of Rexall Place into a seven-ice-surface facility.

The university will present a detailed business plan and operating agreement to council before it adjusts its capital budget in November.

Anderson said he hopes if the city signs an operating contract with the university, it will be enough to assure the donor of its commitment. He said in that case, the city may be able to put off any major investments for a few years.