I haven’t heard one word from Daryl Katz or anybody associated with Rexall Sports suggesting the Edmonton Oilers will leave town if the team doesn’t get a new arena. That’s not a card that needs to be played in negotiations with the city. That doesn’t mean it’s not in the deck as a possibility.

As foolish and counter-productive as it would be for anybody in the Katz camp to try and move negotiations on the $450-million (and growing by the day) project along by suggesting the team will go elsewhere if it doesn’t get everything it wants, it’s equally misguided to dismiss the possibility it could happen under the right (or is that wrong?) circumstances.

Jason Gregor and I discussed the negative aspects — they are many — of playing the "fear card" on his show today. And, while I agree with Gregor it’s highly unlikely the Oilers are going to pull up stakes, failure to build a new facility, in concert with other circumstances, could certainly change what has been a relatively healthy landscape in recent years, despite the on-ice failures of a team that’s missed the playoffs for six straight seasons.

Is that fear-mongering? I think not.


Put me in the camp of people who’d rather see city council and Katz put pen to paper on an agreement that will get shovels in the ground before costs rise more than they already have in the months of back-and-forth we’ve had up until now – a deal that will include a location agreement that will keep the team here for the next 35 years.

I think most people, although I stand to be corrected, can agree that the city and the Oilers need a new facility. We are past the point of that debate, no? Does anybody think Rexall Place has a shelf life beyond the next five years as a viable facility? It needs to be replaced. The question is when and, of course, who pays what to make it happen. Now, I think, is the time. Katz and council had best settle on the "who" sooner than later.

Yes, the Oilers could certainly play out of Rexall Place for another two or three seasons – they’ll have to, even if a new facility is agreed to tomorrow – but if the project goes sideways now, it’s only going to get more expensive down the road. Again, correct me if I’m wrong.

If you take away extreme points of view on either side of the debate – "Screw Katz and the horse he rode in on" and "Give Daryl everything he wants no matter what it costs" – what is the long-term viability of the team in Edmonton without a new facility? That depends.


. . . Despite several economic bumps in the road, it’s fair to say Edmonton is one of the NHL’s best hockey markets, at least right now. Season tickets are in demand despite six years out of the playoffs. Will it remain in the top-third of NHL markets if the economy goes south again?

. . . What happens to the dollars-in and dollars-out, even with a new and more favourable CBA, if the Canadian dollar slides? Might those who believe the Oilers can scrape by, even turn a profit, much longer in Rexall Place change their stance if the dollar slides by 10 per cent from par or slightly better? We don’t even need to discuss the 63-cent dollar the EIG was dealing with at its last cash call. What would the buck at even 85 or 90 cents mean to the team?

. . . Say what you want about Gary Bettman, he fought to keep the Oilers in Edmonton during the days of the 63-cent dollar after Peter Pocklington’s house of cards collapsed and the EIG was riding to the rescue. Bettman wants the Oilers here. He’s philosophically opposed to moving teams unless it’s a last resort. The never-ending saga in Phoenix is Exhibit A. But Phoenix taxpayers have skin in the game with Glendale Arena. Without the same skin here, as in no new facility, might the door open for a Quebec City or a Markham or Seattle? Perhaps.

. . . In terms of investing in a roster that’s built for the future, I can’t think of too many teams that have more young top-end talent than the Oilers when you start with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. I’d take this group over the lot Winnipeg got from Atlanta any day. Wouldn’t you? If you were kicking the tires on a franchise, might one that was struggling in an old building with a devalued dollar and a roster of talented kids interest you?

Get the arena deal done.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • DaveChamp

    I agree with you that it’s disappointing how the Katz group is handling the negotiations. And I think most of us are thinking… is this really still going on? Start building already.

  • geoilersgist

    I agree, get it done. But as of today something tells me that won’t happen. The two sides seem further apart than ever. It took how long to negotiate the first deal? And now Katz wants the city to put in even more? Well, something tells me that council – and the public – have both reached their limit of how much more they’re willing to give. On top of that, you have the arena construction costs increasing as the days go by, and provincial funding is still in limbo. I think it’ll take a miracle for this to get done, quite frankly.

  • geoilersgist

    This is bordering on being absurd now. Edmonton hasn’t had much going for it since Gretz and the boys were lighting it up in the dynasty years. The downtown looks like something out of a post apocolyptic movie and they can’t get a deal done for what is sure to be the jewel or Northern Canada. Politicians need to pull their heads out of their you know whats on this one. Build the damn thing and revitalize a city that is itching for a return to glory days.

  • Helmethead

    I can’t believe the amount of time, effort (not to mention studies money) it has taken JUST to get to THIS point. This council is demonstrating what true bureaucracy is. Katz bought the team in what year 2007-2008? He said then that he wouldn’t stand for the “red tape” and extensive processes involved in making decisions surrounding this hockey club, including building a new arena.

    Guess what Daryl, you’re getting exactly what you didn’t want. I’m of the opinion that city council is doing this on purpose knowing that the Oilers lease with Northlands expires in 2014. It’s no secret that some counselors sit on the Northlands board so are they truly performing their duties as civil servants or as shareholders in a non-for-profit enterprise who has deep roots in the community? Think about it folks.

    If Katz does play the card that Brownlee says he shouldn’t play, would any of us be surprised? It’s his damn team. He can do what he wants with it. And at this point, he just may have to play the card in order to get this arena done. I would and so would most of us if we owned the team. Don’t fool yourselves into believing for a single second that you wouldn’t either cause then you’re about as foolish as Edmonton City Counsel.

  • geoilersgist

    there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes that we will ever know. clearly in the back there is a breakdown or serious proportions. problematic.

    do i want to see Katz stand up for himself at some point and defend his wants/needs…yes. does he owe it to us…no.

    ultimately they need to a waaay better job of conveying their message to the public, for it the public that keeps it viable in this city. the PR that the whole organization has shown has been bewildering bad. from 3 last place finishes to the arena kerfuffle someone should be communicating with the fans, the heart of the team. without the heart no life.

    a philosophy i have, and motto at work that we subscribe to is FPC. Focus, Plan, and Communicate. the Katz group and the Oilers have been severely lacking on this front. improvement needed.

    it IS owed to fans.

  • Toro

    Seeing how taxes were supposed to be abolished after the second world war and they weren’t , they might as well go to a new arena something that I will enjoy for years , or tax the oil company’s up north the extra needed cash seeing how they profit billions a year.

  • Mark-LW

    I’ve read/heard David Staples indicate that the Katz Group is worried about being able to turn a profit. Their prediction of operating profits is much less then the city’s estimate. “The Katz Group’s estimate is that it will make a few million per year. The city’s estimate is the Katz Group will make more than $20 million per year.”

    Seems to me that they can put a clause in the contract that will subsidize the Katz group if they are right and pay the city any excess if they are right…I worry that Katz wants the public to ensure him from any loss in his venture.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    seems to me katz should step out from behind his iron curtain and face the public, especially when he is stepping up to the well looking for more.

    i am in no way opposed to having tax dollars go towards the arena. i fully intend to use the facility for concerts etc, in addition to the oilers.

    would it be that hard to have the man that owns the team attend a public hearing? lay out what you want, what the plan is, and when it will be done. this BS of having mr.joe VP fire off a letter isnt going to cut it.

    the arena needs to be built. get it f-ing going already.

  • OilDoug


    I don’t live in Edmonton and I’ve only been there once. I did see a game in Rexall Place, SkyReach Centre at the time, and it was a great experience. However, I love the Oilers as much as any fan in your city and I want the team to succeed and win there. I believe the new arena/entertainment centre has to be built so the team can survive and thrive.

    I live in St. John’s, NL and we had a similar debate to yours about 15 years ago. We had the Leafs farm team and were told a new facility needed to be built for us to keep the team and make it economically viable. We did build the arena and while we ultimately lost the Leafs farm club we’ve since got the Jets farm team.

    Debate will go back and forth over the reasons the facility should or should not be built and that’s fair however it must be noted that the Oilers help build the identity of Edmonton and to lose that would not be the end of the world but it would hurt.

    Perhaps the city and the Katz Group should speak with the Pittsburgh Penguins who built a new area, that at least looks spectacular on TV, about how they did what they did for less than the budget that the Oilers/Edmonton have in place.

    Rexall is close too if not past its best before date. It is small by 2012 standards and does not have the concourse, space or luxury boxes newer arenas have. The new arena will not only benefit the Oilers but Edmonton as a whole as a bigger and better facility will help attract many other events and concerts to your city. I know our new arena, Mile One Centre, has helped attract bigger and better events to our city and allowed us to be in the top third of the AHL in attendance last season despite being a smaller city in the AHL.

    Ultimately, Mr. Katz and the Edmonton city council will decide what works best for both parties. My belief is Mr. Katz is an Edmontonian and an Oiler fan and wants to keep the team in the city. However, he’s also a business man and won’t be willing to lose money or miss out on more potential revenue forever so moving at some point could be an option. The city has to decide if they are better off with or without the Oilers and when that decision is made a deal must be hammered out that works for both sides or the team may move, that’s reality. Living in a city where we did all we could to keep a hockey team and still lose it I know how that feels and the fans of the Oilers and the city of Edmonton do not want to experience that.

    I am an Oiler fan and will remain so regardless of what city the team calls home. I don’t think it takes a genius to see this group is on the verge of something special. Wouldn’t it be spectacular to have a new arena built in time to celebrate a 6th Stanley Cup? Lets hope it happens!

    Get a deal done and get a new facility built!!

  • Truth

    I can imagine the smug look on the faces of the anti-arena crowd when Katz picks up our Oilers and makes them the second coming of the Quebec Nordiques. “Good, none of our money is going to that Billionaire’s arena.” Little do they know that we are virtually building the arena for them in Quebec right now through equalization payments.

    Hypothetically, if I’m doing the steelwork on the proposed buidling and I’m supposed to have an agreement in place by Sep. 1, which will allow me to secure all of the steel required at a set price, and that date passes what is the first thing I have to tell the owner? Costs are going up and it is out of my control. How can the city/public not see this?

    The people of this city/province need to wake up now or else one day we will wake up and our Oilers will be playing in a building built with our money 3,500 km away from our city.

  • #94 sized hole where my heart used to be...

    canadian markets are way too valuable to the NHL right now and for the forseeable future theirs too much hockey loving oil money in Alberta for the NHL to even let Katz seriously consider moving the team, i firmly beleive they team wont be moved but the longer they wait and bicker over whos paying what the crappier of an arena we’ll end up with IMO

      • #94 sized hole where my heart used to be...

        edmonton is a bigger city for one, and there is too much oil money in alberta, lets put it this way, the market wont turn drastically enough to make moving the oilers a viable option and Bettman worked hard to keep the oilers where they were when the dollar did turn, with the economy in alberta looking stable fo the forseeable future theres no way in hell bettman lets katz move and even then katz would hve a fight on his hands with the league, the oilers arent going anywhere

  • OilDoug

    Hey Robin…..Good article to read and I agree, it’s time for this project to start moving forward with more than a stance here and there and talk only. Costs are going to rise and everyone on this plane tknew that would happen sooner or later anyways.

    Now,….LOL…if they wish to have help saving money, I will go buy them a shovel.

    Seriously though, the two sides already have enough in place to finalize this, be it with extra costs involved or not. It’s also a fact that the provincial govt will take its sweet time on this, either negatively or positively.

    Now I will state last that I would be one very choked guy if I watched this team these past years with suffering bad hockey in order to see the Oilers get the kids we have now for the future but only to then have the team move and this would be a very wrong thing.

    This is starting to make the CBA talks a deja vu type matter and I am getting tired of both now very fast.

    To Katz and the City of Edmonton…Show me the money… and for of my part in this, I will put in my contributions of buying sweaters, go to some games and events related, and then buy some great other Oilers stuff and….to both I also say show me that all the talk for the new arena is not just talk anymore.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    As soon as I heard that report about Seattle’s new arena, I suspected we might get an “update” from the Katz camp very soon. Heh. Robin, I don’t think the Katz Group are into overt threats. I think it’s more along the line of passive-aggressive extortion. They seem to IMPLY a lot, but still leave a lot of room for, “Hey, we’ve never said anything like that.” The “threat” may not be there, but I think the “message” is pretty clear. But, that’s cool. You don’t become a billionaire by being Mr. Nice Guy, or by spending a cent more of your own money than you have to. Understandable, if annoying.

    Just get it done. It’s embarrassing beyond belief that Québec City has shovels in the ground months (at least!) before we will. Especially when one considers the ironic nature of the ultimate source of a big chunk of that money. Grr.

  • turbotwo

    We’ve had the pleasure of watching one of the worst run NHL franchises of the last 6 years, of which operates in a league on the verge of it’s 4th work stoppage in 20 years.

    After 4 years of new ownership we are still waiting to hear one word from the guy that was supposed to to take this team and, by his own early – second hand – promises, this city to the next level despite his attempt to constantly stick his hand in our pockets through escalating ticket prices or his “negotiations” on the new arena.

    With all that in mind, can someone please tell me why I should hope the City continues to find a way to work with his new requests/demands in order to get this deal done?

    I am as big of an arena booster as you will find in this city. Fully on board with with the inclusion of public resources in order to execute it as long as the deal makes sense.

    However 6 months ago as the framework of the deal was agreed to it was assumed that when Darrel Katz stuck his hand out it was to signify an agreement, not the pre-curser to a request for yet even more.

    This isn’t a screw you Katz message, it’s simply saying that it’s hard to find a willingness to work with someone that so clearly doesn’t care about or frankly even seem to respect the working class in the town that he depends on for these very interests to succeed with.

    Not to mention that with all due consideration he hasn’t exactly proven himself very competent at the hockey business or the development and arena management business.

  • book¡e

    Note that I say this as a supporter of the new arena, though I am perplexed at the ineptness of the Katz group in public negotiation.

    In today’s NHL, Rexall Place (the Colosseum) is out of date and no longer viable, but today’s NHL is based upon a model of teams in the USA getting HUGE amounts of public funding from State and Municipal governments to build arenas for their teams.

    I am not convinced that this is going to continue. With municipalities in the USA selling their City Hall’s and shutting down streetlights to avoid going bankrupt, building arenas might seem like a luxury. I suspect that the economics of the game are changing such that teams may be required to be viable without major public subsidies. In that world, a place like the current Rexall would probably suffice for another 25 years in that it is structurally sound, its fine for watching hockey and it is full every time the Oilers play a game.

    As of today, Rexall Place is not a viable place for an NHL team. In five years it might be considered just fine. The window for building a publicly funded arena may not be too long. Katz may want to consider this in his decision making.

  • turbotwo

    Speaking as a Winnipeg based Oilers fan, Edmonton definitely needs a new arena. The combination of the MTS Centre and the Jets has made downtown Winnipeg a much more desirable place to be, even when there isn’t an event going on. My last few trips to Edmonton to see Oilers games I’ve really noticed how run down Rexall Place has become. It’s more reminiscent of a small town hockey barn than a facility for world class performers to put on a show. I’m certain that the city will benefit in the long run, find a deal that works and get it done!

    • turbotwo

      I don’t think many people believe Rexall is a longterm solution for anything.

      What happened yesterday is not about that, it’s about having the goal posts moved on an agreed to course of action.

      It’s about one party believing it has enough leverage to manipulate a good deal into a better deal.

      It’s about an organization that knows it can capitalize on the emotional attachment to a brand in order to pretty much extort the most favourable conditions possible.

      And yes it’s about the head of that organization trying to do all that from arms length as if he owes the very people paying for this development – ultimately 100% of it – nothing in terms of leadership, explanation or reasoning in the manner that the mayor and his colleagues have repeatedly done on his behalf.

  • Lummeropenet

    Here’s the deal. Rexall will be 40 years old next year.

    Two more years on the current rental deal.

    Quebec will have a new building up right around that time.

    Edmonton city council will still be deciding ……….?

    Oilers will say, OK, you now have to compete with the new building in Quebec and possibly Seattle. What can you do for us.

    Good by Oilers.

  • Lummeropenet

    Too bad that Northlands was stuck on building or renovating an arena in in such a dumpy part of town. Alberta and Edmonton might of bankrolled a Northlands owned arena at one time. I don’t think that Northlands should be allowed to operate its arena to compete with the new arena funded by Edmonton.

  • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

    Are people in favour of an increase in their property tax or want a provincial sales tax. If either the city or province have to pay for it and its gotta come from somewhere. The cost of building infustructure in this province has grown to that Redford budgets already in the red. I dont imagine the city have funds. The reality is if comes from the public where should the city or province get it from. I want an arena too, I also want schools where the library has not been converted to extra space for over crowding.

    It’s stupid Quebec is building an arena. The province is nearly a trillion in debt and they can’t pay for their social programs and

  • Calvin

    As much as I just want to see a deal get done, I commend city council for standing pat on this (whatever their motivations may be). Taking hockey out of the argument for a moment, city council is responsible for (IMO) more important things. I want a new arena, but at the same time I don’t want the LRT to start breaking down because money’s tight. Daryl Katz is worth $2 billion, I’m pretty sure he can afford it. And considering he supposedly owns most of the property around the arena, he’s going to be making plenty of money from what will effectively be his own shopping/entertainment district. This deal is looking pretty tidy for him already.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Nothing like poking at the open sore that is the arena debate so here goes.

    Edmonton city council drags it’s feet on funding a new building, led by female councillors who HATE to see their husbands enjoying themselves while watching hockey.

    Oilers relocate to Hamilton/ Quebec/ Seattle

    Public outcry in Edmonton reaches a crescendo as men relocate their balls and stand up,too late unfortunately, for their right to enjoy NHL action.

    Council members responsible for scuttling the arena are hunted by the angry mob and take refuge in the otherwise-empty Art Gallery.

    Calgary city council sees this and immediately agrees to using tax$$$ for a new arena there and the province kicks in a couple hundred mil because, well, they want to keep hockey alive somewhere in Alberta.

    The Canadian dollar soars to 2 dollars US and after much debate Edmonton city council agrees to fund a new arena for 8oo million.

    The Phoenix Coyotes move to Edmonton with their captain and best player Shane Doan finally suiting up here at age 50. The new Oilers earn the 1st overall draft selection for finishing last in the league with 17 points on the season while the Quebec Huilers win their 8th cup. Cheers, everyone!

  • Reg Dunlop

    Final costs upon completion will probably double in the range of 750M -over 1B. You the taxpayer will be paying for that and it’s upkeep and replacement again in 30 years or less and probably before the debt is even paid up . A steep price to pay for an NHL franchise ? Delusions of grandeur ? Tax money in , but little tax dollar return even considering spinoff effects . Another rich man toy payed by poor man tax dollars ? 100M out of billionaire does little to effect upon life and style , but 10% additional in taxes would put a $40,000 family income down to below poverty level in just todays economy . Runaway taxes have already caused most families to have two jobs(one or both spouses) or more just to keep up to poverty level . Last thing most/majority of taxpayers need is more taxes .

    • Truth

      Completion costs will be probably double! Where do you get this information, please?

      $40,000.00 family income with two family members working two jobs (each!) is a more than a little suspect. $15.00/hr @ 40 hrs/week at Mcdonalds gets one family member 75% there.

    • French Toast Mafia

      That is probably the most uninformed post about the arena I have seen. Katz is responsible for the buildings upkeep, as well as all renovation costs, not the city. The final price agreed on between the city and the Katz group will be insured by the construction company so even if they go over those costs will not be taken from Katz or the taxpayers.

      You do realize that if they took 40-50 million dollars extra to build the rink it would have absolutely no effect on your taxes or mine. Have you ever seen the budgets for cities and provinces….

      You sound a little like a guy jealous that the owner of the Oilers makes more money then you. Maybe if we were all as smart or as good at what we did as Katz we would all have the money he has. We aren’t, thats why he owns the team and can do what he wants with it.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Like Robin mentioned yesterday, the next facilty would be harvesting cash for Mr. Katz for the next several decades. With the Coliseum just reaching the middle age/halfway point of that mark, isn’t there plenty of life left in that glorious ole building. What’s the hurry, many a pleasant memories created in the Coliseum, many more still to come.

    If it’s only about the dollars involved going into the new building, then just increase the ticket prices by 25%…..same results, no? Put that list of season ticket holders in waiting to the test. If it’s more cash Katz needs then just give it to him in the existing facility.

    Good on City council for the line in the sand. With the rapid change/advances in todays world, why rush into this, perhapd we’re best to sit back and wait another 10 yrs. Alot could change in that decade. The new building will be outdated soon after it opens as well.

  • Max Powers - Team HME Evans

    If the oilers up and move I’m taking me and my family with them. Im not gonna live in the city that let the oilers and their history slip away.

      • No specific threats, but in the letter to the city from the Katz group that the Journal printed there were no less than three references to the longterm viability of the Oilers in Edmonton.

        They may suck at PR but they sure seem adept at writing between the lines.

      • Spydyr

        Katz did make overtures earlier with Quebec City.

        With the new arena going into Seattle.It has been publicly stated they are looking for an NHL team.

        Katz lives a short distance from Seattle.His kids go to school in Vancouver.

        Lets just wait and see.It is only a prediction.
        Total conjecture on my part.

  • French Toast Mafia

    I don’t think there is anything that frustrates me more then reading about this stupid arena. The arena needs to be built. If the building costs 500 million instead of 450 then so what, 50 million dollars is absolutely nothing for the city of Edmonton and the province of Alberta.

    I live in Calgary now and they spent around 30 million dollars building a stupid bridge for runners and bikers to cross that has about 4 other bridges within 1km. If the city of Edmonton and the province of Alberta can’t find a way to put enough money into this project to make it the “right” way (not cutting corners and being cheap) then this is an absolute joke.

    I love the Oilers and I love Edmonton but it’s almost laughable that this thing seems like it might not happen. When Calgary decides they want to build a new building it will be nothing like this. Calgarys new building will be state of the art and built without cutting any corners. They will also not have the stupid resistance that there is up in Edmonton because like Jason and RB said on the show yeaterday, people in Calgary are just better at getting what they want.

    It’s frustrating and a shame that there seems to be no end in sight for this Edmonton arena deal. And with the way that people like to pinch pennys and moan and complain about everything in Edmonton, when it does get built it might be done cheap and not be the awesome building we are all hoping for.

    I doubt Katz would ever let that happen though.

  • French Toast Mafia

    At this point its not fair that Edmonton tax payers cough up more cash to this monster Downtown. Downtown Edmonton would be better off with the parking than be in debt for another 20 years… No offence to Katz, but if he’s not willing to contribute more maybe he should reduce his asks of profit sharing to game times only, and maybe the city should raise the rent on the billionaire tightwad…. The City is a business as well. I don’t live in the city but I can clearly see it is not fair to the tax payers. Cut the building down in size. God knows there is enough wasted retail space downtown already not occupied. Hmm the empty tower next to Joeys…. Now to bring a oversized, overbudget arena and shopping complex to heart of Edmonton. Rediculous. 75acres of land is free at the airport…