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Naming rights for future Quebec hockey arena sold to Quebecor media empire

Quebec city mayor Regis Labeaume gestures during a press conference as Pierre-Karl Peladeau, CEO of Quebecor, looks on at city hall in Quebec City Tuesday March 1, 2011. Paladeau and Labeaume discussed the details of Quebecor investment as private partner in a new arena. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Francis Vachon

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Quebec city mayor Regis Labeaume gestures during a press conference as Pierre-Karl Peladeau, CEO of Quebecor, looks on at city hall in Quebec City Tuesday March 1, 2011. Paladeau and Labeaume discussed the details of Quebecor investment as private partner in a new arena. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Francis Vachon

QUEBEC - The Quebecor media empire has scored the multimillion-dollar naming rights for a future hockey arena in Quebec City and says its next goal is finding an NHL tenant to play there.

Quebecor president Pierre Karl Peladeau stressed at a wide-ranging news conference that he will continue trying to bring an NHL team back to the city, once home to the Quebec Nordiques.

He promised Tuesday to develop amicable ties with the league and lobby discreetly—an oblique reference, perhaps, to the league's long-running feud with billionaire businessman Jim Balsillie, who has loudly campaigned for another Canadian team.

"We all know there is no guarantee from the league, for the moment, that we will have a hockey team in Quebec," Peladeau stressed.

"But that won't stop me from continuing to promote the file . . . because we have all the necessary conditions."

He also hinted at the marketing approach he intends to take with the building, and perhaps also with a future team: Peladeau cast it as a rival to Montreal, competing with the bigger city for top-name concerts and the affection of Quebecers.

Quebecor will manage the facility, under terms of the deal.

If the building fails to attract an NHL team, Quebecor will pay $33 million for naming rights for 25 years, another $3.15 million per year for management rights, and it will also hand the city 15 per cent of profits from the building.

Those terms would sweeten considerably if the city landed a team—with the fee for naming rights jumping to $63.5 million.

In return, Quebecor gets to manage an arena built entirely with taxpayers' money; the estimated $400 million cost is, so far, being footed exclusively from provincial and city coffers since Ottawa has not yet jumped aboard.

The federal government continued Tuesday to distance itself from the controversial project.

Josee Verner, the Tories' senior minister for the region, insisted she needed to see more "substantial" participation from the private sector.

Ottawa's moves are being watched closely in Saskatchewan, which announced Tuesday that without federal help it would have to mothball plans for a new football stadium.

But Quebec City's tenacious mayor made it clear he would continue pushing for federal money. Regis Labeaume said he would be sending Verner more details of the project over the coming days.

Labeaume did unleash a flood of new details on the arena project at a joint news conference with Peladeau.

Financial terms announced Tuesday are specific to the building, slated to be constructed by 2015. Profits generated by any future NHL team would be separate.

Quebecor, which owns the Sun media chain in English Canada, has long expressed interest in bringing NHL hockey back to the provincial capital, which lost the Nordiques 15 years ago.

But funding for the project has been mired in uncertainty since last summer, when the idea of a federally-funded arena touched off a political furore across the country.

As part of the deal, Quebecor has promised to make the building available 30 days each year for cultural events.

Peladeau's public statements seemed designed to delight a rest-of-Quebec audience, outside Montreal.

He mentioned Montreal several times at the news conference, always as a rival. Peladeau said people in northern and eastern Quebec would no longer have to travel to the bigger city to see major shows.

He quipped that perhaps, one day, Montrealers would have to drive up Highway 20 to the provincial capital if they wanted to see top-name concerts.

"Our objective is to turn the traffic the other way," Peladeau said.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly reported that the arena name was officially announced as the "Videotron amphitheatre," when in fact only the naming rights were announced

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