As promised, the city of Québec broke ground on its new $400 million arena yesterday, with plans for it to be up and running by 2015. Amid all the talk of how many blue plastic shovels were sold and which politicians were cheered or booed and how many Stastnys showed up, the CBC’s coverage buried the important information deep in the article:
Pierre-Karl Péladeau, the CEO of the Québecor empire, was also present at the groundbreaking. His company gets naming rights to the arena and will help pay for operating costs — an amount to be determined, depending on whether an NHL team ever moves in.
This is going to be the key question for Quebec: Will Quebecor be successful in landing an NHL team, and if so, when? This is important not just because the whole damn point of building a new arena (right next to the old one, which will remain) is to lure a pro hockey team, but because if there’s no team, Québecor only has to pay about $70 million worth of present value for naming rights and rent. If a team does arrive, Québecor’s payments jump all the way to $130 million — still nowhere near the $400 million that the city and provice are putting up, but better.
There are certainly plenty of teams rumored to be in play for a move: The Phoenix Coyotes if they can’t get their new lease deal and sale worked out, the New York Islanders if they decide they’d rather be the big fish in a smallish market rather than keep their cut of the New York City media haul … okay, maybe “plenty” is overstating it. And then there are other cities seeking a team as well, including Kansas City, likely Seattle if it builds a new arena, and maybe those crazy kids in Virginia Beach.
Clearly Québecor is motivated to get an NHL team — it wants the TV rights, even if it’d mean a few million dollars a year in extra payments to the city — and with the massive subsidies it’s getting on the arena, it can probably afford to overpay for one vs. some other cities. Still, it’s not a sure thing yet, and whether they’re successful will determine whether Québecois at least get a new Nordiques for their troubles, or whether this expensive new arena project just leaves Québec as a cold Kansas City.