October 30 2012 01:10PM
In the 1980s the Islanders and Oilers were the gold standard for the NHL. They were winning Stanley Cups and their buildings were not outdated. Nassau Coliseum was built in 1972 and Rexall Place in 1974. Since both teams last won Stanley Cups neither has had much success. For a while now both organizations have been in a struggle to get new arenas to play in.
The Nassau Coliseum is too old a building and is easily in the bottom of NHL rinks. A new building is and was needed there to ensure the team can compete financially with its peers.
Last week the New York Islanders announced they would be moving.
Twenty five minutes down the road is Brooklyn, home of the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets. Although it is a facility built for basketball and will hold just north of fifteen thousand fans for hockey, it will be the Islanders home after the 2014-15 season.
For many years Charles Wang, the owner, tried to put a deal together that would make the Lighthouse Project become a reality. The Lighthouse Project was to be a four billion dollar colossus that would include a renovated Nassau Coliseum or new building, a minor league ball park, houses, offices, condos, restaurants, exhibition buildings, etc. A BIG project for Nassau County. I won't bother with all the details on financing but for better or worse - depending on your personal viewpoint - Nassau County residents voted against it on August 1st, 2011.
It is my understanding that an NHL team can move if two situations arrive. First, the lease between the team and building must run out. Two, the venue in which the team plays out of must be outdated and not up to current NHL standards. Does this sound like a situation we are familiar with?
The Oilers are in a similar situation to the one the Islanders were in. Although Rexall place is full of great memories it is out dated. A new building won't have the same ghosts as Rexall but if the Yankees can move into a new building with all the history in old Yankee Stadium so can the Oilers.
(Photo: WinterE229/Wikimedia/CC0 1.0)
I believe the majority of Edmontonians think a new facility is required. So far the City of Edmonton and the Katz Group haven't been able to iron out a deal. Blame has been placed on both sides. As usually happens with these types of deals, money is the issue.
I understand the city is concerned with funding. They represent the citizens of Edmonton and do not want to get into a bad deal with an NHL club. I believe they also have a responsibility to ensure Edmonton continues to grow. I truly believe a city without a vibrant downtown isn't going anywhere. Ever!
Although there has been some improvement to the downtown, a new arena district would kick all of downtown into development hyper drive! How do I know this? I have many examples.
Columbus, L.A, San Jose and Nashville are just a few cities where an arena district vastly improved the downtown. After the rink went up, people started moving back downtown to be closer to action that wasn't there before. This is a recipe for a vibrant downtown.
On the other side of the negotiation sit the Katz Group. They want a deal that makes sense for them and will help them sustain their business. I get that. They mention that a slide to the negative for the Canadian dollar would severely affect them. That is true but it would affect a lot of businesses, not just a hockey team.
The Katz Group needs to become more open. The people of Edmonton feel like the Oilers belong to everyone in the city. When you are the owner of the Oilers you need to deal with that. I would suggest a yearly press conference with all media invited, not handpicked targets. Might not be a lot of fun but this is the way it is when you own the Oilers.
I don't think the Oilers will move but I also don't want to even get to that point. Both the Islanders and Oilers have great history but unlike the Islanders now I want the Oiler's history to continue to develop in Edmonton, not some other location. Time for both sides to give a little and do what is best both for the team and city.