Quebec City will have its new arena, now all it needs is a hockey team to occupy it.
At least Quebecor and the city can justifiably tell the NHL that a new building is definitely on the way – it will have 18,000 seats, it will be situated on the site of a harness racing track near downtown, and construction will begin in mid-September.
Given that the city has already approved about $7-million in emergency renovations for the decrepit Colisée, the former home of the Nordiques, there is mounting excitement among hockey fans in the city.
On Sunday, Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume and Quebecor head Pierre Karl Péladeau put pen to paper on a contract that formalizes a tentative deal reached just over a year ago that will see the media conglomerate take over the management of a $400-million multi-use arena in 2015.
“The dream becomes reality at last,” Labeaume said with typical enthusiasm at a news conference in Quebec City.
There were few if any doubts that a contract would be signed before the Mar. 31 deadline that both parties had agreed to, but as Péladeau said “as of today there are no more obstacles, no more exit doors, no more uncertainty. What was, up until today, an idea, now officially takes form.”
Labeaume said the building will have a smaller footprint than originally planned, but that it will be more or less identical in size as Pittsburgh’s new Consol Energy Center.
“We are convinced that we have all we need to meet both the budget and the deadline,” said Labeaume, adding that the various contingencies for overruns and delays amount to nearly 20 per cent of the overall cost of the new building.
There is still a legal hurdle to overcome – critics of the project are suing the city over the contract, although the provincial legislature passed special legislation last fall to insulate the deal from lawsuits.
Under the terms of the 25-year contract, Quebecor will manage the arena and be its exclusive tenant – the company will pay $63.5-million for naming rights.
The company’s rent will depend on whether it succeeds in attracting an NHL team, in which case it would average $5-million per year.
If the NHL turns up its nose at Quebec City – unlikely, given the passel of U.S. teams who are in financial difficulty – the rent will average a more modest $3-million annually and the naming rights will be sold for $33-million.