It’s a subject that’s once again top of mind for many Edmontonians, and nearly a week after city council turned down the Katz Group’s request for more public funding for the downtown arena – Daryl Katz told his side of the story.

In an hour-long phone interview with the Edmonton Journal on Monday, the owner of the Oilers made his case for recent developments in ongoing downtown arena discussions.

Katz said in the interview, his company has “never been more excited about the potential for Edmonton to have this world-class arena” but more work needed to be done to cover certain long-term costs.

“The fact is that this deal has always contemplated a mechanism to offset capital and operating costs,” Katz said. “In the famous New York City framework, that mechanism was a casino-and-gaming mechanism that the city agreed to help facilitate.

“Now, you’d have to ask the city what they’ve done in that regard, but it didn’t materialize, and when it didn’t happen, we started looking for an alternative mechanism – but it is absolutely not a new concept.

“It has always been there, and to suggest that I’ve tried to change the deal at the last minute is untrue.”

The interview was after Mayor Stephen Mandel and City Councillors turned down a request from the Katz Group to put more public funds towards the arena project last Wednesday.

In Monday’s interview, Katz said things have changed since the original deal was put together in October, 2011.

“Now, the vision stands, but based on everything we know, subsequent to the New York framework, some things have changed. The costs of the arena and the winter garden are higher,” Katz said.

“If we don’t move quickly, this deal’s done, time is our enemy.”

The day after council turned down the company’s request last week, Mayor Stephen Mandel told CTV News the rising price tag was low on the list of issues plaguing the deal – but he was hopeful the deal would work out.

“I hope so, I’ve worked, been passionate about it, taken criticism about it,” Mandel said Thursday. “I think it’s vitally important for downtown.”

Katz echoed the mayor’s hope for the project on Monday.

“The Oilers are the talk of the NHL, just like Edmonton can be the talk of North America if we get this deal done,” Katz said Monday. “We’ve made every investment of time and money in good faith and without regret.”

However, councillors were quick to react to the interview Tuesday.

“As far as we were concerned, we had a deal,” Councillor Ben Henderson said. “We had a deal I don’t know how many months ago, so to start all over again, I’m baffled quite frankly.”

“I think that Mr. Katz’s memory of the history is different than mine,” Mandel said Tuesday. “I no longer can define what Mr. Katz is asking for, and what he’s not asking for.”

Regardless of the reaction, Katz offered a timeline for the next few months, to get the arena on track – before the numbers grow more.

“We’d like to be able to agree on a deal within the next month or two, and we’d like to be able to break ground on the project in the spring and get hard pricing late fall,” Katz said. “Or else costs could be up another 10 percent.”


Later Tuesday, the mayor issued a public statement, inviting the Katz Group to meet with City Council as soon as possible.

In his statement, Mandel said he, and council had been “strong and patient proponents of the prospects of a downtown arena and entertainment district and the potential it represents”, but they had “hit a significant crossroad, one which must be overcome if we are to move the deal forward.”

The statement continues:

Based on the significant material changes proposed by the Katz Group, and the fact that the City’s negotiating team has not been able to complete sufficient due diligence to affirm the economic claims of the Katz Group, Council had no choice but to say no to its request at our September 12, 2012 meeting.

I would openly ask the Katz Group to release their full position to the public – based on the itemized list which was prepared with both the negotiating teams, so that all items and their economic rationale can be fully understood by the people of Edmonton.

What will be clear if the Katz Group agrees to reveal its position is that there are many specific asks which move well beyond the scope of the approved framework, which was based upon negotiations that resulted in Council’s October 26, 2011 motion. I would remind the Katz Group that they had full knowledge of Council’s motion and have had more than a year to raise issues.

The statement concluded with the Mayor stating the city couldn’t continue, without “full consideration of its position”.

With files from Bill Fortier