COMPLAINING TO PASS THE TIME

Not much left to do this season but complain about everything and everyone now is there? Behold a Tuesday airing of grievances and holding the feet of an Edmonton Media Legend to the fire.

ARENA UPDATE #3,506

After years of debate, at least nine of 13 council members still aren’t ready to make a decision on the $450 million proposed downtown arena, saying they want more information before they cast their final vote on a deal.”

“While critics argue team owner Daryl Katz should pay the entire construction cost, one report calls this “difficult” because the $23-million annual mortgage payment would be too high. Katz has agreed to put $100 million into the arena. 

The city envisions covering the cost of borrowing $125 million with a ticket tax, but Katz recently told Mayor Stephen Mandel that he still hasn’t accepted this idea. 

Another $125 million loan is intended to be paid out of dedicated property taxes from surrounding development in a 20-year community revitalization levy (CRL). 

However, the newly released map of the boundaries of the CRL show it would cover 29 blocks around the arena, which some councillors feel could put too much of the future downtown taxes into one project. 

The question of how to raise the remaining $100 million hasn’t been resolved.”

Does anyone else bleed from the eyes when looking at this same old rhetoric for what has to be the millionth article in a row? When is “progress made” that “provides information” and ends the “49th consecutive year of negotiations?

When Rexall Place II is finally built and opened City Councillors should immediately begin exploratory work on Rexall III – due to open at the puck drop of the 2085-86 season. The only thing that we have seen that takes longer than Edmonton City Council ‘gathering information’ is Steve Tambellini ‘assessing the lineup of the Edmonton Oilers.’

In both cases it is extremely painful to watch.

We suppose that the key phrase to remember is that "negotiations continue behind closed doors." We have to imagine that these talks are infinitely more entertaining than what is being leaked to the press – which is essentially nothing – and that progress is actually being made. There are a good many moving parts to the deal and we bet that neither party will sign off on any one issue untill the other items have been negotiated.

Hopefully the distance between "not having enough information" and "here is your new arena Edmonton" isn’t as long as it would appear in print. In the meantime we continue to watch AHL hockey in an aging facility, while the empty parking lots in Downtown Edmonton thaw themselves out from a record winter of snow revealing a nearly equal amount of dirt and sand.

Where is the hope?

FROM OTTAWA?

One other noteworthy development from the weekend, was that Minister Rona Ambrose kept the door open to involvement from the federal government.  She said while the Tories would not put any money directly into an arena, she said they would consider infrastructure dollars if the project is a priority for the City and the Province.

We understand politics about as well as we understand "the goings on inside the female mind" but this has to be considered positive news right? "If the project is a priority for the City and the Province" could be politician code talk for "if you put in some dough we will too, if only to look cool at the opening of the arena and to be able to send the Prime Minister."

Yes, yes. Whatever it takes. The federal government of Denmark could make a proposal to partially fund the arena and we would vote in a referendum to succeed from the Dominion within days.

MR JONES

 

Speaking of selling hope, one has to pity poor Terry Jones over at the Edmonton Sun. At the start of the year, he wrote a great article looking to the start of the 2010-11 season explaining that the Oilers weren’t nearly as bad as the major hockey publications would have you believe. He then followed these kind words with a description of the excitement awaiting the Oilers squadron in anticipation of what would certainly be an exciting year of hockey:

“Make the odds as long as you want. It actually seems to add to the excitement building where fans, who five times knew the thrill of watching a team win the Stanley Cup, can’t wait to begin their first trip up from being as low as you can go to go wherever the newly assembled cast of future stars will take them.

Hope is the No. 1 thing to sell in sports, but it’s not often easy to sell when you are 30th in a 30-team NHL, and predicted to be 30th again.

But has there ever been a last-in-the-league city — at least since this one went into the NHL from the WHA with Wayne Gretzky and all that young talent on training wheels — heading into a season with an “on with the show, this is it” attitude quite like Edmonton this year?”

Poor old Terry.  In a City where most MSM folks alternate between dispensing brainwashing propaganda and harsh criticism of the local squad, he put together a very nice article that ends with the idea that the Oilers were the victims of injury in the 2009-10 season and that the staggering number of man games lost to injury would not continue in the year to come.

But then came the money shot:

“With all that in mind, if this team finishes 15th in the Western Conference and 30th overall, this columnist will repeat an offer from Day 1 in the NHL and eat this column at centre ice at Rexall Place with sauerkraut, sour cream and bitter lemon.”

Now we aren’t saying that celebrated Sun Columnist Terry Jones has to eat his article at the center of the ice at Rexall Place – except that is exactly what needs to be done. One shouldn’t make crazy bets with the unwashed masses unless you expect to honor your commitments Sir.

The Oilers are going to finish 30th place – if only because a 31st standing in the league is impossible. Time to plan a delicious meal we think.

  • Champ

    Don’t be too optimistic about Tory Federal Funding for an arena. Sounds like it could depend on which party wins the election. This from Stephen Harper’s twitter feed:
    “@pmharper Stephen Harper
    Our affordable fitness tax credits contrast with Ignatieff’s high-cost promises to fund professional sports arenas. http://ow.ly/4sdGA“.

    Doesn’t seem like Harper’s on board.
    ~And remember, what a politician says in an election is set in stone!~

  • The greatest Edmonton sportswriter in the history of Twitter deserves no less.

    Also: I’m sick of the rink story too. Has Katz not being paying attention? Was the ticket tax a surprise to him?

    • I have to wonder how much of what we are being told is just banter to entertain the masses while the real deal is negotiated in private and will be announced with little to no public input.

      In all the artilces I’ve read – never once has a referendum been suggested. That would be a quick way to move this along.

      • Horcsky

        We don’t take kindly to referenda and plebiscites in these parts. Let’s not forget the city centre airport, petition for a plebiscite fiasco.

        Also, it boggles my mind as to why Katz would be against a ticket tax. It’s more money that would be coming from the ‘unwashed masses’ that he wouldn’t have to fork over. Any idea why he is opposed to this?

        • Also, it boggles my mind as to why Katz would be against a ticket tax. It’s more money that would be coming from the ‘unwashed masses’ that he wouldn’t have to fork over. Any idea why he is opposed to this?

          I think he’s (slightly) opposed to something that would directly impact only the season ticket holders. If he can at least express some reluctance about this idea then the people that fork over their hard earned cash for tickets that are already pricey then maybe they think he isn’t all bad.

          It is preferable to have that cash coming from the public coffers so everyone has to pay a bit as opposed to hitting only the folks who buy the tickets.

          Of course, I’d be willing to bet that if it came down to “if you impose a ticket tax that gets us $x M dollars we’ll kick in $y M” then Katz will grab that faster than Soft Hands McSteeley jumps on the opportunity to make the first post.

          @ The Real Scuba Steve

          Classic man. Just classic.

      • This whole arena thing would be put to bed next week if Oilers Nation stepped up and became the naming rights sponsor. Then when the thing finally gets built, we could say we’re heading down to the Drunk Tank for some exciting NHL ice hockey.

        All it would take is about 10 Bajillion dollars and a complimentary corporate suite with an open bar. No problem, right? RIGHT?

      • The Real Scuba Steve

        I don’t think a referendum would end very well. The sausage factory approach is in Katz’ interest here. With that said, Mandel’s sticking his neck out for him and stunts like embarassing him by telling him that you disagree with his funding model that’s been around for a year like a year later probably aren’t appreciated.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    We were all in the same boat as Terry at the start of the year, hope was all we had till reality set in. Jonesy’s one tough sommbeach, can’t believe he made it this far, he must be pushing 60.

  • Woogie

    I just don’t get it. Edmonton needs a new Arena!

    Our downtown SUCKS!!! I work downtown and by 6:00pm everyday there is almost nobody around. How can this happen in a major city? There is no reason to stay downtown. Everyone would rather spread themselves too thin and have urban sprawling which is huge cost to infrastructure. If people had a reason to live downtown they would. Having an arena downtown is going to help not solve this situation but it will surely help this.

    How can city councillors keep saying they need more information? More information on what?

    Politicians drive me nuts. They only look at the short term because they want to be re-elected. What about making this city better in 10 years from now??? Arguing about snow removal for 6 months out of the year is not going to help out this city in 10 years!!!!

    Thank god Mandel is mayor!

    • Horcsky

      “thank god mandel is mayor”….for cereal?

      ~mandel is the best~

      this is not a little tiny decision to be made with a nod of the head and shake of the hand.

      yes maybe the city does need a new arena complex but it should take time to spend 450mil.

  • 9 Inches Uncut

    There is no progress on the arena as the Katz group is offering zero transparency.

    They say they’re losing money but won’t open the books. Just take their word for it.

    They want all the profits. It’s only fair.

    Rather then negotiate in good faith they have hatchetman Patrick Laforge spreading rumours that the Oilers may leave town and then he says veiled statements like. “The Oilers are not looking at moving… at this time.”

    We need to demand that our governments stop the corporate welfare gravy train and if it has to start with something as dumb as a hockey arena. So be it.

  • Horcsky

    A referendum generally requires a 67% voter favor to proceed i believe . If so , i doubt the taxpayers would support it . Trying to get it thru the taxpayers with the type of club we have now would be a tough battle/sell , far greater than if we we had a winning exciting club . Civic pride in our major sports teams at an all time low , and an embarrassment to many . I know i don’t want to go thru all the crap and politics that we were dragged thru the last time when we had a very good team .

    Higher taxes and an aging population that wants taxes lowered another stumbling block .

  • Oilers4ever

    Seriously this arena debate is extremely old.. but as I’ve said many times.. your dumb if you don’t think Katz won’t move this team if he doesn’t get the deal he wants. It’s a business, he’s going to go where he’s making money… and that is not in the 2nd oldest rink in the NHL… It would suck to see them go, but business is business. But I think they will get things worked out. Like Wanye is saying, I think tons of this happening behind the scenes with no public eyes and ears around. Anyone on council who doesn’t think Edmonton will become a bigger hole than what some people already think it is if the Oil leave are on drugs and need a kick in the teeth. The Oilers bring this city too much income by their existence. The winfalls down the road from building this whole entertainment district will be beneficial for decades to come.

  • Twiggs

    Katz should just start building the thing and when he is close to being out of money then go to various levels of government and say “Well, are you going to help out or are we just going to leave this half finished structure in the middle of downtown?” That’ll teach ’em!

  • Twiggs

    There is too much outcry against the arena for enough of these councillors to side with the Katz group. When a billionaire begs for public funds to build something he wants, the optics are bad. I dont agree with the arena coming from the taxpayers back. If there was a province that could figure it out this is it. If Katz does not get his deal, then he should find some local investors who can work with the Northland cronies and sell.

  • smiliegirl15

    I was at lunch with the mayor today; the premier and quite a few MLAs were there as well.

    No I was not dreaming – today was the Mayor’s State of the City address. He’s in favour of a new arena and appealed to the provincial government it was important in Edmonton’s efforts to move forward as a vibrant, urban city. The new arena would be quintessential to revitalizing the downtown.

    They are just words but hopefully they did not fall on deaf ears.

    The only thing that we have seen that takes longer than Edmonton City Council ‘gathering information’ is Steve Tambellini ‘assessing the lineup of the Edmonton Oilers.’

    Pure gold!

  • Ender

    I don’t hack on Jonesey as much as some of the others here just because I remember reading him in the SUN for a lot of years when that’s all there was to read. The days before internet was invented . . . you remember.

    That said . . .

    “Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the press has its own stern code
    In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart I knew what was owed.
    Through the long, long night in the cold spotlight, while Nationeers, round in a ring
    Called out to gloat ’bout the piece I wrote — Oh God! how I loathed the thing.”

    It’s time, Mr. Jones.

  • John Chambers

    Wanye, I understand a bit of politics, and I can tell you the only reason Ambrose kept the door open, was because the Liberals said they would fund arena projects. And the only reason the Liberals said they would support arena funding is because there is an election going on right now.

    Simply put, if we are putting our arena eggs in the basket of the feds giving us money for the arena, I am going to put my house up for sale and pray the team goes somewhere nice and warm (getting a little sick of winter anyways).

    • Maggie the Monkey

      At the same press conference that Harper announced that the Tories definitely would not be contributing to an arena in Quebec City, they also announced that $37M* of new funds was going towards upgrading the local airport. This financing was removed from municipal and provincial costs. This would, of course, free up money for other investments, including the proposed arena, and I’ve been scratching my head ever since as to why the press or opposing political parties didn’t comment on this. Maybe I’m misinterpreting the situation but it seems like federal funding through the back door to me.

      *This number is from memory, and please don’t ask me to track down the details from the Globe article I read about it a few weeks ago.

        • Maggie the Monkey

          That’s true. Drawing attention to any form of spending by the Tories in Quebec doesn’t exactly help out the Grits, NDP, or Bloc, does it? I hadn’t thought of it from that perspective.

  • John Chambers

    So Katz doesn’t like a ticket tax, but offers no replacement to the $125 million lost. Why doesn’t Katz throw his 100 million for the arena and his one hundred million for the district all into the arena. District tax levy projects 125 million over a few years. Leaves 125 million short. Sounds like Katz might have to eat the ticket tax and we got a deal.

    Province has to buck up something. I don’t live in Edmonton, but please use my provincial tax dollars. I will use the rink to hockey, concert, rodeo, etc.

    Please Edmonton, revitalize your parking lot district. Please move the downtown forward.

    As for Katz, dump the Peter Polklington negotiation strategy. I say we all threaten the Rexall boycott strategy unless things get civil real soon.

    Another smart???? move on Katz’s part is to bring the little worm Bettman into negotiations. That almost matches a Tambo hockey move, real stupid!!!

  • a lg dubl dubl

    how much was that ugly arts building again? I know not 450 millon beans but im pretty sure our taxes went into that ugly metal building. Our council is daft IMO, what did that ghost say in that baseball movie “if you build it they will come”.