Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz’s group rejected an offer to meet with the local city council to revise plans for a new arena.
Here is a full statement from the team, via Katz Group exec John D. Karvellas:
“While we appreciate the Mayor’s invitation, we do not think such a meeting can be productive until we have reduced the outstanding issues. As we have said previously, we remain committed to working constructively with City Administration to reach an agreement and would be pleased to go before Council with Administration to present a comprehensive and mutually supported proposal, or even a proposal with one or two significant issues still to be resolved. Then, Council can review the proposal and either approve or reject it as it sees fit.”
This comes on the heels of Katz claiming that “all bets are off” regarding the possibility of relocation after the city rejected his request for more money to build the new arena.
Columnist David Staples’ initial reaction is that the press release is confusing, but believes that the Katz Group is trying to negotiate with the city a bit before holding an actual meeting.
Staples thinks it’s actually a good sign in the grand scheme of things. Even so, Staples believes that they should ultimately honor the city’s request – either publicly or privately.
Until then, there might be some tension in the air.
If the Consol Energy Center was the house that Crosby and Malkin built, then the Edmonton Oilers’ arena will be the house that Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins built.
OK, it will really just another arena primarily built by taxpayers’ money, but that’s just the sad state of affairs in much of modern sports.
Edmonton’s city council approved the arena by a 10-3 margin, according to CBC News. Oilers owner Daryl Katz will pay $30 million of the $100 million he owes up front, which is just 25 percent of the total estimated costs of the new arena.
City councilor Don Iveson shared a rather stark take on the deal.
“This deal … flows from our weak negotiating position, weakened by the fear of losing the team. A fear, I think, is irrational and a bluff I might call,” he said.
Meanwhile, Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel called it a “watershed moment” for the city, which one can assume doesn’t reference taxypayers being taken behind the watershed.
All griping about the business of sports aside, the Oilers will stay in Edmonton and are likely to create a lot of joy once the new arena is built. They’re already improving as we speak, but much like the Penguins, the Oilers are likely to be a contending team once the new building is up and running. That will require some wise decision making along the way, but Katz & Co. just cleared what might be the biggest hurdle of them all – with a big boost from the city, of course.
Here are a couple of stories about NHL teams fighting with city/regional governments for money related to their new or previous arena deals.
- First, news that’s good for an NHL team: the Montreal Canadiens won a tax-related battle with the city of Montreal regarding the Bell Centre. The Habs will receive a $5.8 million rebate after this legal victory. The Canadiens’ annual tax bill will also drop from $10 million to $8.5 million. The combined rebate and first year of savings (about $7.3 million) would almost cover Scott Gomez’s $7.5 million salary in 2011-12. No word regarding whether or not the Canadiens’ brass began an “Ole” chant after hearing the good news.
- The Edmonton Oilers are desperate to leave the 37-year-old Rexall Place once their lease expires in 2014. To do so, the Oilers reportedly need a big boost from either Alberta or the federal government.
Unfortunately for the Oilers, both sides seem reluctant (at best) to give them a $100-$125 million boost to build a $425 million arena project.
“There won’t be any direct dollars flowing to the arena. It’s a private sector business,” said Premier Ed Stelmach at an event in Calgary Wednesday.
“We’ve always said if they are improvements that can be made to the infrastructure around the proposed arena — LRT, water, sewer all of those that are joint responsibility of the city and the province. But we are continuing to meet.”
The federal government has been equally reluctant.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it clear earlier this year that his government is not in the pro-hockey business and will not spend taxpayers’ money on a professional sports arena or stadium.
This Oilers arena issue has been brewing for a few years now, but still seems like an under the radar problem. We’ll keep an eye on it as it develops, though, because it could get quite a bit thornier if the word “relocation” is thrown around even more than it already has been.