‘It takes two to tango’: Mayor on downtown arena deal
Published Tuesday, September 25, 2012 2:12PM MDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 25, 2012 7:01PM MDT
It appears tensions over the ongoing downtown arena negotiations are showing no signs of stopping – after Monday’s incidents left many with questions of what the Katz Group is up to, while others are calling for calm.
In Edmonton, Mayor Stephen Mandel set a hard deadline for the city and the Katz Group to go to City Councillors with financial details of what the company wants – and if someone from the company does not, Mandel said the whole deal may need to be re-thought.
“It doesn’t have to be Mr. Katz,” Mandel said, reiterating his invitation to the Katz Group to talk to city council. “Come to council at some point in time and say what they want and in my book [October] 17 is the [deadline], and it really can’t go any longer than that.”
Meanwhile, in the Pacific Northwest, Daryl Katz, Oilers president and COO Patrick Laforge, former Oiler greats Wayne Gretzky, Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe, alongside Katz Group officials took in an NFL game in Seattle.
The time of the visit to the city is raising questions in Edmonton – of what Katz’s plans are for the Oilers in the future.
Shortly after news broke that Katz and his counterparts were in Washington State, the company issued a statement, confirming the group was in Seattle for meetings.
According to the statement, the Katz Group is still committed to working with the City of Edmonton to reach a deal, and if that’s done the team will stay in Edmonton.
However, the statement goes on to say the company had seen a number of proposals from potential NHL markets for a while:
“Nonetheless, and as the City of Edmonton is aware, the Katz Group has been listening to proposals from a number of potential NHL markets for some time. After more than four years of trying to secure an arena deal and with less than 24 months remaining on the Oilers' lease at Rexall Place, this is only prudent and should come as no surprise.”
Also on Monday, Seattle City Council voted in favour of a $490 million arena – meant to secure an NBA team.
That deal also hinges on a memorandum of understanding that must be signed by the middle of October, which a professional sports franchise will move to that city – that could refer to either an NBA or NHL team.
“This isn’t the first time the Katz Group has gone to a different market,” City Councillor Kim Krushell said. “I think Hamilton comes to mind, I think Quebec City comes to mind.
“We’ve been negotiating for a long time, and I think the feeling of a number of councillors, including myself, is we’re getting pretty frustrated with this bit of circus, and I really think it’s important to deal in good faith.”
These latest developments came after City Council turned down a request from the Katz Group for more public funding for the arena nearly two weeks ago – that sparked a public exchange where Daryl Katz requested, and did, an interview with the Edmonton Journal.
Following that interview, the mayor invited the Katz Group to bring their concerns before City Council, and bring the details of the arena negotiations – which have remained under wraps, out in the open.
It was an invitation the Katz Group turned down.
While the last few days have sparked worry and panic in some Edmontonians, especially Oilers fans – one of the biggest names in NHL history weighed in.
Wayne Gretzky told Sportsnet 590 The FAN in Toronto that although he attended the football game he is not taking sides – and he’s confident the Oilers will remain in Edmonton.
“I can’t see them moving it,” Gretzky said. “I mean it’s one of the greatest franchises in all of professional sports, you don’t just move a great franchise like that, so hopefully cooler heads prevail and they all sit there and get a deal done.”
City of Edmonton City Manager Simon Farbrother echoed Gretzky’s thoughts on the saga – and said he was aware of the Katz Group’s plans to visit the US, and he’s not concerned by the meetings.
“What’s really at issue is what gets written down in an agreement, and that actually drives an outcome,” Farbrother said. “I would say, in terms of the work we’re doing, we’re continuing to work with the Katz Group in terms of the logistics of building the arena.
For the mayor, he's looking forward to working with the company on an arena deal - which he believes is not out of reach, although he said it's not clear how far apart either side is.
"We're trying," Mandel said. "But it takes two to tango."
With files from Kevin Armstrong and Bill Fortier