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Katz gives a little; will an arena deal get done in Edmonton?

Oct 14, 2011, 9:05 PM EST

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The good news is that the Edmonton Oilers have an owner. With teams like the Coyotes, Stars, and Blues undergoing ownership issues over the last few months (years), having an owner isn’t something to be taken for granted anymore. Now having a place to play—that’s a different story. For anyone following the arena negotiations in Edmonton, owner Daryl Katz wants to build a new arena downtown to house the Edmonton Oilers. Not only does he want a new downtown arena, he wants the taxpayers to help fund the deal, and he wanted a non-compete clause with the operator of Rexall Place that would send concerts to the new arena as well.

No word if he wants the City of Edmonton to throw in a pony while they’re at it.

After meeting with Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel and Gary Bettman in New York this week, it sounds like Katz is willing to limit his demands. He’s publically stated that he’ll take the non-compete clause off the table as he tries to work a deal before October 31. You see, he has until Halloween before he loses the downtown parcel of land that has been reserved for the potential arena. Without the downtown land, there is no downtown arena.

Obviously in negotiations, people don’t make concessions without getting something back in return. From SportsNet:

“In return for taking the clause off the table, the city has agreed to a new ticket tax at Rexall equal to the one proposed for the new arena, said [City manager Simon] Farbrother.

“There would be a level playing field,” he said, adding the city would also stop subsidizing Rexall after the new arena is built.

The debate over a new home for the Oilers to replace Rexall Place, the second-oldest rink the league, has been going for four years.

Although close to a deal, the project’s remaining stumbling block is money. A hefty $100 million is still needed to fund the $450-million arena.

The Katz Group earlier agreed to put up $100 million and tax ticket holders for another $125 million. The city would pony up $125 million.”

As an outsider, it would be great to see the Oilers get a new arena to go with their new team. Rexall Place is the second oldest arena in the league and could definitely use an upgrade. Can you imagine the Oilers taking the next step with all of their young talent—completing in the playoffs with a new sold-out new building in the middle of Edmonton? It sounds like a great idea.

Of course, any time taxpayer funds are being discussed, it opens a political can of worms that has little to do with hockey. Just ask people in Long Island about votes and referendums about new arenas. For the average voter, it comes down to money. More money in the form of taxes means less money in people’s pockets.

The two sides have a little over two weeks to figure this thing out. We’ll keep you updated as the two sides continue to negotiate.

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