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Committee backs downtown rink for Oilers

The Canadian Press

3/25/2008 2:07:01 PM

EDMONTON - A committee studying whether to build a new arena in downtown Edmonton has concluded that the project would be both feasible and desirable.

The committee says a new sports and entertainment facility in the Alberta capital would help revitalize its downtown core.

As for who would pay for the $450-million arena, the committee suggests a "mix of public and private participation."

Spokeswoman Charlotte Robb says the committee is confident the arena could be financed without tax increases and without taking money away from other infrastructure projects.

In the past, Mayor Stephen Mandel has expressed support for the arena, although the provincial government has said it is not a priority.

Darryl Katz, the prospective owner of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers, has pledged up to $100 million for a new ice rink, although the committee has not spoken to him directly.

Rexall Sports Corp., an affiliate of the Katz Group of Companies, says it is pleased at the committee's conclusions.

"Over the next several weeks we will be assessing our position with regards to the financing and overall development, and what it means to us as the prospective new owners of the Oilers," John Karvellas, president of Rexall Sports, said Tuesday.

"We look forward to working with the City .. and other stakeholders to move this project forward."

Katz is a pharmacy entrepreneur who owns the Rexall drugstore chain.

He is poised to take over ownership of the Oilers after the current investors agreed early this year to sell him their shares for $200 million.

The deal is pending National Hockey League approval and is expected to close in May.