Oilers owner: “all bets are off” without new arena

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Darryl Katz didn’t outright threaten to move the Oilers if he can’t close a deal with the City of Edmonton to build a new downtown arena, but the team’s owner sure left the possibility open for discussion.

“If this doesn’t work, what can I say?” Katz told the Edmonton Journal in an extensive interview the newspaper granted at his request.

“Obviously, all bets are off, and we’ll have to figure out what comes next. And I don’t know what that will be, OK? That’s truthful.”

The latest chapter in the Oilers’ arena saga started last week when Katz went to city council requesting more money for the project – a request the city turned down.

One of Katz’s new wishes – among others – is a $6-million annual operating subsidy to run the arena.

He justifies the subsidy as follows:

“Number one, Edmonton’s needs a new arena. Edmonton needs a new arena with the Oilers and our investment, or without.

“With the Oilers and our investment, the cost of the arena is shared. Without the Oilers, Edmonton still needs a new arena, but the public would have to pay the full freight, just as it would have to pay $250-odd million to refurbish Rexall Place.

“Plus it would have to pay all the capital and operating costs, just like Quebec City will, just like Kansas City, just like Phoenix, just like Seattle, just like Hamilton, and just like other cities that would all like an NHL or NBA team to subsidize their arenas.

“So you see, in our view, it is the team that acts as a subsidy for a city’s arena, which is effectively infrastructure, not the other way around. So the Oilers are the key to the arena, and the arena, in turn, is the key to a whole host of benefits to the city and the public.”

We won’t bore you with all the details – bottom line is that Edmonton hockey fans are once again being forced to consider life without the Oilers unless taxpayers play ball with a billionaire owner.

Not a good look for a league that’s already taking a PR beating.