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Quebec City is in ‘final blitz’ to wrap up $400M deal for an NHL-friendly arena

Sep 2, 2011, 6:37 PM EDT

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We’re a little over a month away from the rebirth of the Winnipeg Jets, but another former market is hoping to bring the NHL back in the future. Quebec City hopes to become the next location to get a team, but before they do that, they’ll need to build an NHL-friendly arena. The current plan is to have that arena built by 2015, but it might all come down to getting everything agreed upon according to some tight deadlines.

Apparently that arena would cost about $400 million, with the polarizing plan requiring much of that money to come from taxpayers. The Montreal Gazette reports that Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume is finishing up a “final blitz” to agree upon a naming rights deal with media company Quebecor, with a September 7 deadline for the paperwork. That naming rights deadline will be a prelude to the postponed voting for the arena bill itself, which is expected to take place on September 20.

The situation already caused some messy political backlash in Quebec City, so Labeaume knows that they need to make sure that they get it right.

“We don’t want to get this wrong because when these documents will become public, we have a feeling it will generate a lot of interest on the part of specialists and pseudo-specialists. So to be honest, we’ll work on it until Sept. 7,” Labeaume said last week, of the negotiations.

The tentative deal with Quebecor is also facing opposition in the province and a legal challenge of the agreement is scheduled to be heard in court on Sept. 6, the eve of the deadline.

Former civil servant and Parti Quebecois minister Denis de Belleval is fighting to nullify the proposed agreement because it is a municipal contract that never went to public tender. Instead, Labeaume used what he called a competitive bidding process, inviting companies to express their interests in managing the proposed 18,000 seat facility.

De Belleval also argues Quebecor got a sweetheart deal from the city. The media company would get full control of the amphitheatre until 2040, with a possible extension to 2045, plus naming rights, for $63.5 million if Quebecor succeeds in landing an NHL team; the price tag would be $33 million without NHL hockey.

Quebecor’s rent would be $4.5 million annually with a team, $2.5 million without.

Apologies if some of these issues go over your head – it gets more complicated as the article digs into the deeper political impact – but the basic gist is that the next month could have an enormous impact on Quebec City’s chances of landing an NHL team sometime in the near future.

Naturally, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be more twists and turns after the paperwork is signed and the voting is over. If the Phoenix Coyotes’ situation taught us anything, it’s that these situations can provide plenty of ups and downs. These matters tend to get especially messy when public money is involved, so we’ll keep an eye on this developing situation in the next weeks, months and even years.

  1. bcisleman - Sep 2, 2011 at 11:09 PM

    Glad that someone has taken the trouble to actually state the facts of the Quebec City situation. The facts of the matter make it extremely unlikely that a team will be relocated to QC. If the NHL decides to expand, it might be possible. But the people of Quebec are unlikely to want so much of their tax dollars to be devoted to a project that has so little likelihood of producing an NHL franchise and the NHL, for its part, is unlikely to approve the relocation of a franchise like the Islanders or Coyotes who have an existing NHL-approved arena.

  2. balewsquare - Sep 3, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    I still don’t understand with the terrible financial situations around the world, how in any sport (NFL w/LA building 2 stadiums for 1 possible team), cities are required to build a viable arena to HOPEFULLY convince a team to come. Can’t we save that $400 million? Kansas City has an arena ready to go, but with no team.

    • bcisleman - Sep 4, 2011 at 12:59 PM

      KC’s problem is that it has never demonstrated that it can support professional hockey. Professional hockey teams at every level have repeatedly failed there. A reasonable idea might be to try an AHL franchise there and see if it works before taking a huge risk by planting an NHL franchise.

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