Quebec breaks ground on arena, but now what about a team?

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.

9 comments on “Quebec breaks ground on arena, but now what about a team?

  1. I am no expert on Quebec politics but the article seems to tie Charest and this arena together. But it looks like Charest will be going down to defeat today if polls are right. Of course, the most likely winner today is the woman, Marois, they were booing who steamrolled some legal protections for this deal through. I am starting to understand why a third party whose main agenda is to fight corruption has had a decent start.

  2. I would love to see Quebec City get their Nordiques back. With Gary Bettman being commissioner of the NHL, he will probably do everything in his power to stop that from happening. Hopefully I am proven wrong.

  3. With all due respect to NY Islander fans, I have to think that they are the odd team out in New York.

    Barclays Center is not fit for NHL hockey as it only holds 14,500 for hockey and Long Island isn’t going to build an arena. I really feel like the Islanders are the best fit for QC.

    Also, there are still 2 NHL teams left in the metro area to root for. I realize that rooting for the Rangers is sacreligious to Islander fans but there is still the Devils. If I’m the Devils, I”m marketing myself all over Long Island. You just take LIRR to Penn station and then transfer to a PATH train and you’ll be 2 blocks from the “The Rock”, home of the Devils.

  4. We are told there “is no deal” to return a team to QC, and Bettman has been very clear in saying that “no-one should build an arena in anticipation of a club moving”.

    That said, it has to be fantastic news for Bettman that someone actually wants one of his floundering franchises. A racketeer absent demand is just a homeless guy, after all.

    I would expect that a team will be found to move to QC once the arena is ready. Whether that will be Florida, Phx, the Isles, Columbus or Nashville I don’t know. It seems less likely to me that Wang will surrender the small share he has of New York for all of Quebec City than one of the other possible moves. But one never knows.

  5. FMS: I would suggest that the PQ victory (narrow as it was) in yesterday’s election means nothing to the deal. Charest offered support for it, but Marois (whatever her prior pronouncements) does not have the majority, much less public support, necessary to cancel it.

    For Better or Worse, QC is probably stuck with this ‘deal’. At least they (unlike Glendale) might actually earn enough tax revenue to fill most of the budget hole over the long run.

  6. Bettman probably wants a team in Quebec City. He has said many times he would prefer to return to the cities that were abondon before going to a new city. He has also cautioned optimisim on that happening anytime soon. Just look at Winnipeg as an example of how the league would prefer to handle relocations.

    I envision this close to an Oklahoma City/Chesapeake energy/Aubrey McClendon scenario where Quebecor and more than likely the power trust at Quebecor want to own the team that moves to the arena. What would happen if a team wants to move there without selling? Like let’s say the Jamison group wants to move there after their commitments are up (At one time, I believe there was some kind of out clause after 5 years). Quebecor probably sets the rent so they could make it so astronomical, it would prevent a team from ever coming there. Now…the city could take exception to that since they get an additional 2million a year (60M) if there is an NHL team.

    This is going to be interesting..

  7. The Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) could play their home games at the new arena or an AHL franchise could return to Quebec City. I don’t see Quebec City getting an NHL franchise anytime soon.

  8. I think Neil summed it up best at the end of the article when he compared this situation to that in KC: it is one more seat at the table to remind cities that there are other options for their hometown NHL teams if a new, publicly funded arena doesn’t get built. There is so much potential here for QC to be used and abused just like Hamilton was once they built Copps Coliseum.

  9. The new ruling Parti Quebecois supported the Liberal party’s funding of the arena.

    Only an odd coalition of the far left (Quebec Solidaire) and far right ex-ADQ, new CAQ parties was against it, but they were far out-numbered in the assembly.

    Someone commented on it in after another article, but Quebecor media is always railing against government intervention and subsidies in private business, but they’re mum when they’re the benefactors.