Patrick Laforge, Northlands, and the New Arena


Just came across this rather fantastic quote from Patrick Laforge, the president of the Edmonton Oilers:

“We lost money last year.  We lost quite a bit of money.

“I’ve said all along that we can’t count on the largesse of the owner’s Visa card to keep hockey in Edmonton, or in Calgary, and the building provides the sustainability model that you need through good times and bad.”

That quote appears in today’s Edmonton Journal.

Of course, threatening the future of the team in Edmonton was standard behaviour during the EIG years.  Daryl Katz and his group have, up until now, been pretty good about not holding the gun to the heads of hockey fans. 

Until, that is, Northlands chairman Andrew Huntley came out swinging.

It seems that Northlands – the non-profit organization which runs Rexall Place – wasn’t consulted when Patrick Laforge held a press conference about the new arena the other day.  Laforge had made comments that were less than decided about Northlands future in regards to the new arena, and so Huntley explained the deal the Oilers currently get from Northlands:

Huntley says Northlands–and Alberta taxpayers–already provide handsome subsidies to the Oilers. Under terms of the team’s current 10-year lease at Rexall, which expires in 2014, the Oilers pay a nominal rent of just $1 a year, and cover only a portion of the arena’s related operating costs.

The actual operating costs exceed the club’s $878,166 annual contribution by more than $20,000 per home game, or upwards of$800,000 per year, he says. Recent multimillion-dollar upgrades to the dressing rooms at Rexall were funded through provincial grants.

Meanwhile, the Oilers control all ancillary revenues, from food and beverage sales to signage and sponsorship income, plus all suite revenues for every event at Rexall Place.

But it seems that Laforge and the Oilers aren’t content with the current deal.  The Oilers want all arena-related revenues to go into their pockets.  Laforge also implied that Northlands simply isn’t a big enough fish to run the Oilers’ new arena; this despite the fact that under their watch Rexall was named the 10th busiest arena in the world last year, and the 2nd busiest in Canada – behind only the Air Canada Centre.

I don’t know what everyone else is going to make of this, but I don’t see how Laforge and Co. can expect public money without having a public group run the arena; further, I don’t see how Northlands has shown anything but remarkable ability in running the arena.

As it stands, if public money is going into the arena, Northlands should be running it.  Regardless of how often Laforge uses the future of the team as a hostage.

  • Hippy

    @ The Menace:

    Yeah I call horse S**t on the losing money bit.

    And IF it's true: ICE A BETTER TEAM!!(increased merchandise and playoff revenue) or stop spending to the cap.

  • Hippy

    Is anyone really believing that the Oilers are losing money? With the Canadian dollar approaching parity, a packed building *every* night, all the concession revenues (parking too?), merchandising, very little rent ($1?), and some money from TV? With all that, are we really supposed to believe that the Oilers are couting on the largesse of Katz' VISA? Come on.

  • Hippy

    I find it hard to believe the Oilers lost 'a lot' of money last year.

    However, even if that's true, instead of trying to bilk tax dollars out of the public coffers, perhaps the Franchise could, you know, put together a competent squad and make it into the post season. I'm guessing that would go along way to filling some pockets without having to build a new $300M rink.

  • Hippy

    This is really starting to stink. Laforge and circumventing best practices with city planning and public consultation and are now detailing exactly how much of a ride they are planning to take us on.

  • Hippy

    Yeah, that is:

    a) shocking (losing "a lot" of money)
    b) dangerous ground for them to be treading on, politically speaking

    I think it's also proof that there's little chance of the arena being in the 18,000 seat range, as many want to believe. Sounds like they definitely want to squeeze every last cent out of the place, so I wouldn't be surprised to see something approaching 20,000 seats.