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Public hearing for new Oilers arena delayed until fall

The Canadian Press

6/8/2010 2:48:04 AM

EDMONTON -- A public hearing on a rezoning application for a proposed new hockey arena and entertainment district in Edmonton has been postponed.

Daryl Katz, owner of the National Hockey League Oilers, wants to build a $1-billion-plus arena, entertainment, retail and office development on the northern edge of the downtown core.

A public hearing on the necessary rezoning was to be held June 28, but has been put off.

Concerns have been raised in several corners, including from the city itself, about who should pay for the ambitious project.

Bob Black, vice-president of the Katz Group, says the delay will allow time to put together a more detailed funding model.

He says it's clear questions about funding would distract from the zoning application -- even though the two are separate things.

"We have received an incredible amount of support for our project, but we have also heard city council and others tell us they want to see a funding model. We understand that," Black said Monday in a news release.

Black says the group will also take the extra time to further advance its zoning application.

A new date for the hearing has not yet been set, but it's expected to take place sometime in the fall. Edmonton's municipal election is Oct. 18.

Last month, a public meeting was held to discuss plans for the Katz Group's proposed complex of office towers, hotels, restaurants, a casino and student residences. At its heart is a $400-million, 18,000-seat rink that would be linked to surrounding amenities by a sprawling, above-ground bubble-topped "winter garden."

The Katz Group has already bought the land and is helping design the project. But it has also stirred controversy with its pitch to have the city pay for, own and operate the rink, while the Oilers would pay minimal rent and keep profits from all games and other non-related events.

The group suggest it would kick in $100 million to attract businesses and hotels to the project. The city's debt for building the rink would be paid off by the resulting increase in property taxes.

Katz, who bought the Oilers for $200 million two years ago, has not threatened to move them if the rink doesn't get built, but has said the deal is "crucial" to the team's long-term viability.