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Edmonton owner urges city to build Oilers a new arena

Jul 21, 2010, 11:50 PM EDT

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darylkatz.jpgWhen it comes to the business side of sports, sometimes we’re privy to seeing millionaires and billionaires plead for millions of dollars from taxpayers so that they can make even more money. Enter the owner of the Edmonton Oilers Daryl Katz.

Katz is hoping that the people of Edmonton will help him out so he can build a new arena in downtown Edmonton to replace the aging Rexall Place (formerly Northlands Coliseum). The city would rather he renovate the arena. Hoo boy, here comes the conflict.

In a rare public appearance, Daryl Katz promised to sign a location agreement to keep the Oilers in Edmonton. But the team is not viable without a new arena, and the Oilers will not play at the arena now run by Northlands, said John Karvellas, executive vice-president and general counsel for the Katz Group.

“We do not intend to have the Oilers play in a renovated Rexall Place,” Karvellas said.

However, the Katz Group denied any implied threat to move the team when Coun. Tony Caterina directly asked if that was the case.

Katz repeated an earlier pledge to $100 million toward the construction of the arena and added another $100 million toward development of the surrounding area. That, along with the $200 million he spent buying the Oilers, brings his commitment to the project to $400 million. But he’s willing to hand the keys to the city, he said.

“If that’s what it takes to move this project forward, I will do that,” Katz said.

The beauty of having to keep a good public face is that threatening the fans with the possibility of leaving never goes over well and it’s great that Katz has quashed that notion completely right up front. After all, this is a city that’s still reeling from former owner Peter Pocklington turning the team into a disaster after Gretzky and Messier left town.
Whether this more direct approach to asking for money pans out for Katz remains to be seen but the best news for Oilers fans is that there’s absolutely zero threat for the team to leave town. Keep in mind that this negotiation couldn’t be more seemingly polar opposite to the one the Islanders and owner Charles Wang are going through concerning Nassau Coliseum and the Town of Hempstead. In this case, the squabble just breaks down into who gets to potentially make more money out of the deal, either Daryl Katz or the city of Edmonton.

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