Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume has announced an ambitious plan to bring NHL hockey back to the provincial capital and eventually make another bid for the Winter Games.

Labeaume said he's hired engineering firm SNC Lavalin to conduct a feasibility study on a new, $400 million arena to replace the aging Colisee. He hopes to see the arena built by 2012.

The Colisee has been cited as the main reason for Quebec City's inability to hold an NHL team. The building lacks luxury suites and other amenities of a modern arena.

"The current Colisee is a relic from another era," Labeaume told a news conference.

"The time has come to offer our population a modern arena . . . A modern nordic city needs a modern arena."

Labeaume will ask the provincial government for $175 million, with matching funds from Ottawa. His administration is prepared to chip in $50 million.


Last Friday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the mayor that Quebec City was on the short list should an NHL team become available.

The Quebec Nordiques played in the capital from 1979 to 1995 before the franchise moved to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche.

Labeaume said a new arena would not necessarily guarantee the arrival of an NHL team. But, he added in the next breath, the absence of one would guarantee no return of the NHL. He also told the news conference that hockey is a "religion" to Quebecers.

Bigger plans

Labeaume said the city needs an arena for several reasons, in addition to replacing the Nordiques.

He said the city needs a larger, more modern space to attract top-notch cultural events and conventions.

Quebec already has a convention centre but it's modest in size compared with an arena.

Tax Bill?

While asking for money from Ottawa and the provincial government, Labeaume -- who is in the middle of an election campaign -- promised that Quebec City residents would not see their own taxes go up.


Quebec City lost out to Vancouver in the bidding for the 2010 Winter Games, but Labeaume is not giving up.

He wants to bid for the 2022 or 2026 Winter Olympics, with the new arena as the showpiece facility.

- With Files from the Canadian Press -