The U of A sent a delegation to City Hall to try to convince city councillors to pony up $20 million towards a twin arena project on the South Campus. Councillors were told that private donors have put a ‘limited time offer’ on the table however a contract would need to be in place before the end of the year. However that’s a time crunch members of community services committee couldn’t cope with Monday.
“It is a slightly time dependent request,” said the U of A’s Kerry Mummery told the committee. “We’ve currently got over $20 million in philanthropic donations that have been allocated to this gift and they are time limited. We are under some pressure from our donors to move forward on this project.”
The proposed twin rinks, which have been talked about since they were first proposed in 2013 would see a competition venue for the Golden Bears seating 3,000, plus another 500 seat ice sheet for recreational use. City staff said about 1.2 of the ice time would be rental, while .8 would be exclusively for the U of A.
Mummery said he was hoping the competition venue could be larger but the costs got away from them. “In looking at the construction costs they started to escalate in a non-linear fashion once we went much beyond 3,000 seats. The 5,000 seats were extremely expensive to get that extra volume in.”
City council has set its capital budget that lasts until 2018, so this push from the private donors is posing a problem. Community services committee was told that all the donors wanted to make sure of, is that a contract is signed before the end of this year, and the U of A could handle the cash flow in the meantime.
“Lurking in everybody’s mind here is the fact that we’re probably going to have to make a decision on investing $80 million or $85 million to deal with Northlands,” said Coun. Bryan Anderson who sees a timing problem. “I’m going to guess that decision is going to have to be made before we are into the ’19 capital budget which will conflict with where we’re going to get the money for this and that at the same time.”
The plan calls for a 600 vehicle parkade to be built to handle the traffic for the twin rinks, and two venues in the Saville Sports Centre. Yet that paid parking poses a problem as well. “City users traditionally through out the city do not pay for parking,” Anderson said. “Parking for city ice time probably we would like to have it considered as non-paid parking.”
“Currently it’s a bit of a delta between city current rates and what’s in the business case,” Don Hickey replied.
Councillors have asked for more info so they can get a handle on the competing visions in the fall. The U of A contingent bolted from city hall, refusing to talk to reporters.