The Edmonton arena project is having a hard time reaching its guaranteed cost of $450 million.

Those of you who are surprised by this news, please raise your hand. OK, you, you, and you … I have a Nigerian prince who wants to speak to you. Something about an inheritance.

Yesterday’s news that the arena design is $35 million over budget is one of the least shocking headline in an Edmonton newspaper since “Winter will be cold, forecasters say.”

A city report says that despite cost cutting measures, the future boondoggle is $35 million over budget.  For example, they’ve already gone from a zinc exterior (which, as I recall, is the exterior used on the art gallery) to aluminum; I suspect the next move will be aluminum siding, and when that doesn’t do the job, they’ll consider stucco and try to sell it as a retro 1950s look.

The Winter Garden, which will span 104th Avenue like a pedway on steroids, is $30 million over budget. May I be the first to predict that the Winter Garden will whither and die like, well, a garden in winter.

What are the chances that the arena will come in at the $450 million price? Mayor Mandel says sure, no problem — in fact, we can get it lower, he said. But, he warned “there are value judgments about what we want to put in and what we don’t want to put in.”

Ah, there’s the rub. They’ve already cut out the Oilers souvenir shop, which I’m sure will go over really well with the Oilers. They’ve cut out terrazzo floors in favor of brushed concrete to give it that welcoming warehouse feel.  They’re talking about cutting back on the underground parking by half, which is good news for the thieves at Impark, but bad news for the building’s revenue stream.

I think revenue is going to be the sticking point as they sharpen the pencils and pare down the project. Rick Daviss, the project’s executive director, made this ominous statement: “Whether the revenue streams are still sufficient to allow the hockey club to keep its operation sustainable, that will be the subject of negotiations between the Katz group and the city.”

The Oilers, of course, will want their souvenir shop back. And they’ll want those parking stalls. And food kiosks, and everything else they can make a buck from. And if that means going from zinc to aluminum to stucco on the outside, from terrazzo to brushed concrete to linoleum on the inside, so be it.

If we’re going to build this thing, and we are, we’d better build it right. I sincerely doubt that they’ll be able to get it down to $450 million without significant cheapening of the project — or finding some way to increase the budget.

And speaking of budget, city council … how’s the search for that missing $100 million coming along?

I thought so.



One thought on “Arena over budget. And winter is cold.

  1. Cancel the whole thing and use the money for something useful. If the zillionaire owners and players want a building to play in, they can ante up. Any dollars from the public should be voluntary donations.

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