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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Quebec hockey arena a go

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QUEBEC -- Quebec City's mayor made it official Sunday, announcing the construction of a much-anticipated $400-million NHL-calibre hockey arena will kick off in September.

The city and the province of Quebec will, as planned, split the cost of building the 18,000-seat arena by 2015.

Mayor Regis Labeaume also announced a final agreement was reached before the March 31 deadline with media giant Quebecor to manage the building, which could serve as the future home of a professional hockey team.

"The city is closer than it has ever been to its dream," said Labeaume, in reference to the city's and Quebecor's efforts to bring back an NHL team.

Quebec lost the Nordiques in 1995 when the team moved to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche.

Quebec city council recently approved a $7-million refurbishment of the city's aging Colisée, built in 1949, if an NHL team is approved before the new arena is built.

Sunday's announcement comes as the future of the Phoenix Coyotes is uncertain. Quebec City, Seattle and Kansas City could be considered as potential homes by the NHL if the league decides to move the team from Arizona.

But Labeaume and Quebecor president and CEO Pierre-Karl Peladeau remained tight-lipped on the question.

"Now we are going to get the building, it's done. It's a heck of a relief," Labeaume said Sunday. "As for the team, I have nothing to say."

The provincial government is also on board with its previously announced investment of $200 million to build the arena.

The arena will be located outside the city's downtown, on the site of the hippodrome, a horse-racing track set to close in a few months.

Labeaume noted he had to scale back the size of the building to stay within its $400 million budget from 70,000 to 64,000 square metres, the size of the Kansas City arena. With the use of an adjacent building for administrative purposes and possibly to host a restaurant, the arena will reach 68,000 square metres.

Quebecor has agreed to pay the city to manage the arena for at least 25 years, with a possibility to extend the contract for an additional 15 years. Quebecor's rent will be $4.5 million annually with a team, and $2.5 million without.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 26, 2012 C2

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