Saturday, October 15, 2011

Oilers arena bid moves forward

It was big day on Friday for the Edmonton Oilers.

After a trip to New York City to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, the City of Edmonton and The Katz Group made some major progress in the negotiations over that proposed downtown arena complex.

It took some give and take from both sides, but the city eventually announced on Friday afternoon that they had a deal worked out with the team, and that council had voted to move forward with the purchase of some land downtown.

Things all started to fall in place when The Katz Group withdrew its requirement for a non-compete clause, which was one of the major stumbling blocks heading into the day. That would have forced Northlands, the group that runs Rexall Place right now, out of the arena concert business, but it likely would have cost the Oilers owner some serious money.

As well, the city announced a 10-year, $20-million sponsorship deal with the team, which will include things like board advertising in the new rink.

Some of the other items that came out of Friday’s special meeting of council are a ticket tax on shows at Rexall once the Oilers move out, because there will be one at the new place and the city wants to keep a level playing field. New development in the area will be taxed, which is expected to raise $125-million on the city’s end and the price of the development will go up a bit for a pedway across 104th avenue, with an extra $5-million coming out of the city’s share.

After the meeting, council voted to go ahead with the purchase of the parcel of land downtown that will eventually be home to the new rink…that is, if everything goes ahead following an October 26th vote.

If you’re looking at what happened on Friday and thinking this is a done deal though, there are at least 100-million reasons to be cautious!

The last major stumbling block in these arena negotiations is the $100-million that is needed to make this thing happen. Yes, for all the progress that has been made, the two sides are still quite far apart when it comes to the actual money. The city has asked the province for the cash, but so far there has been no indication from the new premier that she’ll be chipping in.

In fact, while campaigning for the Tory leadership last month, Alison Redford was pretty clear about her stance. That said, it seems like if there’s a will, there’s a way when it comes to politics.

Even the land purchase doesn’t seem to mean a whole lot – a few city councilors were quoted after the vote as saying that if the arena thing doesn’t work out, they can always just resell it. Councilor Kim Krushell added though that having the land puts the city in the drivers seat, at least in some aspects, if things do progress.

So, the prospect of a new arena in downtown Edmonton definitely looks a lot better than it did a week ago, but there is still a long way to go!

What do you think: Will the Edmonton Oilers get a new rink?

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