Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Edmonton Oilers Brass Refuses to Meet with City for Crucial Debate on New Arena

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Edmonton Oilers Brass Refuses to Meet with City for Crucial Debate on New Arena

Article excerpt

Oilers refuse to meet with city on arena


EDMONTON - Fading hopes for a new arena for the Edmonton Oilers grew fainter Tuesday after team owner Daryl Katz refused for a second time to meet city councillors in public to explain why he wants millions of dollars more in taxpayers' money.

"I'm not sure where we go from here," Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel told reporters after receiving the refusal in a letter from Katz. "It's frustrating that for whatever reason he still doesn't want to come to city council to talk about what his issues are.

"That's an important part of how we move forward."

Mandel had set a Wednesday deadline to hash out all remaining issues on the arena, which has been negotiated on and off for four years.

Katz said the two sides are so far apart, a public meeting is not useful.

"We have gone backwards," said Katz in the letter. "We and the city can't even agree on basic assumptions relating to the financial aspects of operating a new arena."

Katz also accused Mandel and the councillors of putting parochial interests ahead of the city's and by doing so risk missing out on a golden opportunity to revitalize the downtown.

"The city has approached this negotiation based on narrow political considerations rather than a general desire to strike a deal that is fair and makes economic sense for both sides," wrote Katz. "We all understood the devil would be in the details, and indeed it was.

"Mayor Mandel, this is an opportunity for Edmonton to be bold and forward-looking, and it warrants your support and leadership."

Asked to respond, Mandel told reporters: "Many of the things Mr. Katz states in (the letter) I wouldn't necessarily agree with, but we're not going to get into that today."

Mandel has said the city wants to stick with the original funding deal agreed to by Katz a year ago.

That deal came apart last month when Katz officials informed the city privately that they had reviewed the numbers and needed millions more public dollars to make it work.

Councillors refused to budge, prompting both sides to publicly accuse each other of bargaining in bad faith.

Mandel urged Katz to come to city council and explain himself. Katz refused and instead threatened to move the team to Seattle. When angry Edmonton fans reacted on social media, Katz took out full-page newspaper ads on Sept. 29 to apologize.

With both sides resuming talks in private, Mandel then set the drop-dead date of the Sept. 17 city council meeting, and said he expected Katz or his officials to show up.

Construction had been slated to start in the spring with the 18,400-seat arena completed in the fall of 2015.

Katz has said he's a passionate Edmontonian who wants to keep the NHL team in Alberta's capital, but needs more money to compete in what he terms a "small market."

"The Oilers need Edmonton and Edmonton needs the Oilers. Each is an integral part of the fabric and the identity of the other," Katz told fans in the full-page apology ads.

University of Alberta sports economist Brad Humphreys urged fans to strip away the rhetoric.

"It's the way the game is played," said Humphreys, who has authored numerous reports on sports economics and has advised U.S. Congress on the issue. …

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